February 2, 2016
The state Senate Commerce and Labor Committee approved a sweeping change to the Virginia workers’ compensation system on Monday. The Daily Press reports that the committee approved SB 631, which directs the state Workers’ Compensation Commission authority to set a fee schedule for treatment.
Allowing the state to set the fees doctors, hospitals and other health care providers charge when treating workplace injuries may mean an end to the more than 2,000 fee dispute cases pending before the commission at any point in time.
In theory, putting an end to those fee dispute cases will reduce expenses and allow the commission to spend more time focusing on the complex question of whether an accident ought to be covered by workers’ comp.
The new fees would take effect in 2018, after a consultant studies fees and the commission reviews its findings. Fees would be adjusted for inflation, using an index based on medical costs in the south as tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency that measures the national Consumer Price Index.
Generally speaking, Virginia sets stringent standards for workers comp eligibility. Unlike many states, injured workers in Virginia can be required to prove a cause and effect between the work they did and the injury they suffered.
Additionally, Virginia has some of the lowest workers compensation insurance rates in the nation, despite the fairly steady rise in the cost of medical care over the past few decades. Virginia employers in the voluntary market pay on average, the fourth lowest workers’ compensation premium rates in the nation. The maximum compensation rate in Virginia (effective July 1, 2014) was $967.00, while the minimum compensation rate was $241.75. These rates are 37% below those of the median state in a nationwide study.