Posted on 15 Apr 2011
In a bipartisan effort, workers compensation reform became a reality in Montana on Tuesday as Governor Brian Schweitzer signed House Bill 334 into law.
The bill, sponsored by MT State Representative Scott Reichner, is the product of years of work completed by the Labor Management Advisory Council.
The bill originally favored the medical industry but as it went through the legislative process it was amended so that, in the end, both Democrats and Republicans supported the bill.
The law makes sweeping changes to the state’s workers comp system:
• Terminates medical benefits for permanent partial disability claims 60 months from the date of injury, but also allows an extension of the benefits upon review by a panel of doctors.
• Requires doctors to apply the sixth edition of the American Medical Association's “Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment” in rating impairments.
• Limits employer liability for injuries occurring off the company’s premises, such as while a worker is performing personal business, on a break, or participating in social or recreational activities paid for by the employer.
• Freezes medical fee schedules from July 2011-June 2013 at rates that were in effect on Dec. 31, 2010.
• Allows insurance carriers to designate doctors.
Schweitzer noted, "This is a compromise. This says that a lot of people have worked together. It says the most important thing is to create jobs in Montana. To stop the businesses that are leaving Montana because we have a dysfunctional workman's comp system."
While labor and business still have some concerns over the bill, both parties say the bill will decrease work comp costs