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Legislative changes seem likely for Wisconsin workers' comp law

The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a bill that amends parts of the state's workers' comp law, both improving the amount of benefit payments to injured workers and potentially taking away all right to compensation from some workers injured while impaired.

The bill cleared the Assembly with a unanimous vote of 97-0, but it still needs to be passed by the Senate before the governor can sign it and it becomes law. The bill includes provisions that will take away compensation from any worker who suffers on the job injuries when intoxicated or on drugs.

In return for this concession, workers will receive a slightly greater amount of compensation, and for workers injured after the start of next year, it will rise from $322 per week to $362.

The bill also authorizes the Wisconsin Department of Justice to participate in the investigation of workers' compensation fraud. While many believe there is much fraud perpetrated by workers "faking" injuries, much of the far more expensive fraud occurs when employers, doctors and hospitals manipulate the system to either leave workers with no coverage, obtain fees for services never provided or at inflated costs.

The best way for employers to reduce their workers' compensation costs is simply to operate a legal and safe workplace, by avoiding the temptation to cut corners on safety issues.

And the legislature probably should not be too pleased with itself for kicking workers with substance abuse issues out of the system. If they are severely injured, they are unlikely to have any source of income and lack any other medical coverage, meaning they are likely to wind up in an emergency room or a program of last resort, like Social Security Disability.

The assembly may only have shifted the cost to another program.

Source: badgerherald.com, "Assembly unanimously passes bill that would change workers’ compensation law," VIDUSHI SAXENA AND EMILY HAMER, February 12, 2016

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