Workers’ compensation in New York state is an archaic system that has long stifled economic growth due to its high costs while giving injured employees little in the way of compensation. Currently, New York state has the second-highest workers’ compensation cost per case and is ranked 48th among the 50 states in benefit levels. To improve the business climate and benefits to injured workers, my Assembly Minority colleagues and I have championed several initiatives to reform workers’ compensation.
Today, our years of hard work paid off, when my Assembly Minority colleagues and I reached an agreement on workers’ compensation reform with Governor Spitzer and legislative leaders. The reforms in the agreement mirror the ones we have long championed and will lower employer costs by 10 to 15 percent while increasing benefits to injured workers.
Other reforms in the agreement would provide cost savings to businesses by capping permanent partial disability benefits, while continuing medical care and establishing a safety net to assist injured workers’ return to employment and intervene during cases of severe destitution.
Additional reforms include:
- Increasing the current maximum weekly benefit rate for injured workers from $400 to $500, and then increasing it over a period of four years to two-thirds of the state’s average weekly wage
- Annually indexing the maximum benefit for injured workers to provide further increases to counter the effect of inflation and increased cost-of-living
- Developing fact-based medical guidelines to determine the degree of impairment
- Expediting the hearing process for claims to ensure fast delivery of compensation and treatment to injured workers encouraging their speedy recovery and return to the workforce
- Closing the outdated and costly Second Injury Fund
- Increasing penalties for workers’ compensation insurance fraud
- Creating transparency in the workers’ compensation system by improving collection of data on premiums and losses.
“By changing workers’ compensation through our reform initiatives, we will improve the state’s and Monroe County’s business climate and make central New York a place where hard-working people do more than just get by,” added Reilich.