Header graphic for print
The New York Disability Law Blog Information and Help for Disabled Individuals with Workers' Compensation, Social Security Disability and Construction Accident Claims

Insight on Spitzer’s New York Workers’ Compensation Reform Agreement

Posted in Labor News, NY Workers Compensation Claims

Over the past few months, you may have noticed a precipitous drop in the number of posts to the New York Disability Lawyer Blog.   However, as Co-Chair of the New York Workers’ Compensation AllianceI’ve been doing the Albany shuffle along with some of my dedicated colleagues in an attempt to protect injured workers from any disastrous workers’ comp reform.  Well – were in the ninth inning now given Governor Spitzer’s press conference today announcing a workers’ compensation reform agreement between all the major players at the bargaining tableIt’s been a long but hopefully worthwhile fight.

Give New York Governor Eliot Spitzer credithe played his cards in the workers’ compensation reform deal brilliantly and in the process has undone one of the pillars of the original law that was on the books for nearly 100 years – the permanent partial disability pension.  That’s not to say that this pillar was not crumbling of it’s own weight and didn’t need some reforming. After all, it had been around since the assassination of Prince Archduke Francis Ferdinand!  But like a historic neighborhood that is indelibly disturbed by the need for a three lane highway, it was rather sad to watch, especially for those of us who are a bit nostalgic when it comes to labor history.  The price of progress!

So, who are the winners and losers in the new reform deal? Aside from the obvious political winners -Governor Spitzer, Assembly Speaker Silver and  Senate Majority Leader Bruno- who all seemed to be playing nicely in the rose garden, the winners are as follows:

  • Injured workers earning over $600 per week, who will now see an immediate potential benefit increase;
  • Injured workers who will have greater access to real job retraining and rehabilitation;
  • Injured workers whose authorization for appropriate medical care will be sped up;
  • Injured workers whose claims will be resolved quicker due to the implementation of the new "Rocket Docket" proposed by the Workers’ Compensation Alliance;
  • Employers who should see a 10-15% decrease in workers’ comp premiums;
  • Honest employers who will no longer subsidize cheating employers due to new criminal employer fraud penalties;
  • Doctors who often waited months for authorization for much needed surgeries for their patients.

Now, as in any hard fought compromise,the inevitable losers:

  • Injured workers with permanent partial disabilities who cannot be rehabilitated for other work (i.e. the 58 year old carpenter with no high school degree, among others);
  • Injured workers earning less than $600 per week;
  • Dishonest employers who will now face felony criminal charges;
  • The New York Compensation Rating Board, which will be abolished;
  • The "Second Injury Fund", which will be phased out of existence;
  • Any others that we discover once the actual written bill details are released.

Teddy Roosevelt – excuse me…Eliot Spitzer! – chocks up one more win on the scorched earth reform path.

 

 

 

  • On September 21, 2006, Eliot Spitzer met with the New York State Business Council at posh Bolton Landing on Lake George, and this is what he said that night to the members of the Business Council with regard to Worker’s Compensation in the State of New York, which incidentally is guaranteed by the BILL OF RIGHTS of OUR New York State Constitution, section 18 of Article I, and so cannot just be willy-nilly eliminated by popular whim:
    Ken, I look forward to working with you to make New York the best place to do business in the world.
    Over the past six months, I have been laying out a comprehensive plan for economic revitalization.
    But today, I want to speak about what I believe should be our first priority, and that is making New York companies more competitive by improving our business climate.
    Now let me just cite some of the other areas in which New York State needs to become more competitive.
    Workers’ compensation premiums in our state are the eighth highest in the nation, even as the maximum benefit to workers ranks 49th nationally as a percentage of average weekly income.
    Well, I have a message for you: If I am elected Governor, on Day One of next year we are going to begin to implement an aggressive strategy to reduce the cost of doing business in New York and make New York the best place to do business in the world.
    We will reform our workers’ compensation system to reduce the burden of high premiums while increasing benefits for most workers.
    Second, we must break the political gridlock that is preventing reform of our broken and dysfunctional workers’ compensation system.
    What was meant to be an insurance system that provided medical care and simple compensation to injured workers has become a morass that is seen by many workers as putting up unfair obstacles to receiving fair compensation for lost wages, and by many businesses as an increasingly burdensome cost that is forcing employers to leave the state.
    The maximum benefit under workers’ comp has not been increased since 1994.
    Both because it is the right thing to do and because it is necessary to build the coalition to achieve real reform, we will increase benefits to most injured workers.
    But I want to be clear that the end result of our workers comp reforms must be to meaningfully reduce premiums.
    In order to increase benefits for most injured workers while reducing premiums, our workers’ comp reforms must be bold and far reaching.
    To really bring our workers’ comp costs in line with other states, we must confront the challenge of reforming our system of Permanent Partial Disability payments.
    These payments make up less than 12 percent of claims, but they account for almost 75 percent of all costs.
    All ideas, including caps on benefits for all but the most serious injuries, must be on the table as we bring our program into line with other states.
    These changes should be accompanied by aggressive rehabilitation and retraining programs, so that workers can get back in the work force.
    As Governor, I will immediately go to work to build the coalition we need to get this problem solved so that we can once and for all fix this enormous drag on the competitiveness of New York’s businesses.
    http://www.spitzerpaterson.com/main.cfm?ac…&s=spitzer3
    That was on September 26, 2006, BEFORE Eliot Spitzer was elected Governor ….
    Clearly, five months ago, Eliot Spitzer’s mind was already made up as to what he was going to do to appease the members of the New York State Business Council with respect to Worker’s Compensation ….
    AND WHAT ELIOT SPITZER INTENDS ON BEHALF OF THE NEW YORK STATE BUSINESS COUNCIL WITH RESPECT TO REDUCING WORKER’S COMPENSATION BENEFITS FOR PERMANENTLY DISABLED WORKERS IS OF ABSOLUTELY NO BENEFIT WHATSOEVER TO THE EMPLOYEES WHO DO SUFFER PERMAMENT DISABILITIES AT THE HANDS OF THE MEMBERS OF THE NEW YORK STATE BUSINESS COUNCIL …
    VICTIMS WHO ELIOT SPITZER INTENDS STRIP OF BENEFITS GUARANTEED BY THE BILL OF RIGHTS OF THE NEW YORK STATE CONSTITUTION WITHOUT THEM HAVING A VOICE IN THE MATTER ….
    And then, curiously on Thursday, February 22, 2007, in an article entitled “Spitzer adds $18 million in funding to budget plan”, the Associated Press reported that “STEAMROLLER” Spitzer was adding $1 million to his budget to “coordinate research and talks to reform the worker’s compensation system” …..
    Now that is indeed odd, adding this one million to the state budget on February 22nd of this year to “COORDINATE RESEARCH AND TALKS TO REFORM THE NEW YORK STATE WORKER’S COMPENSATION SYSTEM” when five months ago, Eliot Spitzer was making it quite clear to the New York State Business Council that his mind was already made up on what to do with Worker’s Compensation ….
    Which would imply that by September 21, 2006, Eliot Spitzer had already done the necessary RESEARCH to substantiate his plan ….
    SO?
    Where’s the cool million going then?
    Into whose pocket will that ONE MILLION DOLLARS now flow?
    AND WHAT EXACTLY IS THAT ONE MILLION DOLLARS BUYING FOR ELIOT SPITZER?
    Is that ONE MILLION DOLLARS placed into the supplemental state budget how Eliot Spitzer managed to break the political gridlock that allegedly was preventing reform of the alleged broken and dysfunctional workers’ compensation system?
    Many questions …
    With no answers forthcoming ….
    FROM THE THREE MEN IN A ROOM IN ALBANY ….
    PLUS JAMES TEDISCO AS A FOURTH …
    And so ….

  • james stinson

    what about people who are currently permanently partial disabled? Will they be grandfathered or will new regulations apply to them?

  • jamie

    i’m permanently disabled and would like to know where i stand. my injury happened 11 years ago. i was hit by a car while working on a construction site. 1 month in the hospital. i can’t go back to work. i live with chronic pain and physical limitations. how am i supposed to get better and go back to work. i have a perm injury so comp should give permanent coverage.if i knew that was going to change i would have purchased additional insurance but now i face being homeless. what can i do to fight this?

  • Tha last two commenters are fully protected under the old law. The caps will not apply to your claims. This law only applys to future claims. Hope this helps.
    Troy Rosasco

  • JP

    I have a question. I understand that there is a provision in the Reform Act that requires out of state employers to purchase a full NYS worker’s compensation policy if even one of my employees comes into the state on business (even if its just for a conference). As I understand it, the old Other States clause (Item 3C) is no longer accepted in New York and the state must be listed under Item 3A. Therefore a class code payroll estimation must be entered into my comp costs.
    Is that correct?