This week in Albany, an agreement was reached by lawmakers and Governor Eliot Spitzer to reform the state’s workers’ compensation system that ranks 2nd in the nation in cost per case and 48th in paid benefits.
As a small business owner, and member of the Assembly Minority Task Force on Small Businesses, I have been a vocal advocate for the measures included in this agreement since my first day as your Assemblyman.
Workers’ compensation costs have been forcing companies and jobs to leave our state at an alarming rate. Businesses and injured workers have been suffering under this out-dated and broken system. I am encouraged that this agreement will help to strengthen New York’s position in a global economy.
We have been in dire need of cost-saving measures to help businesses and a benefit increase to improve the quality of life for injured workers. That goal has been realized and I am proud to be a part of an agreement that makes a difference for people across the state.
Under the agreement, benefits for workers will increase for the first time in more than a decade while employer costs will drop 10 to 15 percent with savings to grow over time.
The workers’ compensation reform agreement includes measures to:
- 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
- Increase the current maximum weekly benefit rate for injured workers from $400 to $500, and then increases it over a period of four years to two-thirds of the state’s average weekly wage
- Annually index the benefit for injured workers to provide further increases to counter the effect of inflation and increased cost-of-living
- Develop fact-based medical guidelines to determine the degree of impairment
- Expedite 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
- Close the outdated and costly Second Injury Fund
- Increase penalties for workers’ compensation insurance fraud
- Create transparency in the workers’ compensation system by improving collection of data on premiums and losses.
My conference has proven its dedication to businesses and workers in the legislation we support and champion. This week, that dedication has been translated into real results that I am confident will create jobs and tend to workers’ needs.