Local input sought on workers’ comp

State officials will gather feedback on reforms in Vancouver on Feb. 21

By Courtney Sherwood, Columbian freelance writer

Published:

 

If you go

What: Comment on new state workers’ compensation rules.

When: 10 a.m. Feb. 21.

Where: Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay, 100 Columbia St.

Information: Workers' comp questions.

State officials will be in Vancouver later this month to gather feedback about how to best put into force recent reforms to Washington’s workers’ compensation system.

Hurt workers have been up to eight times more likely to receive permanent disability status here than in the rest of the country, according to a state-commissioned study. That’s driven workers’ comp premiums up, and last year it spurred the Legislature to add a new option for resolving on-the-job-injury claims.

That option, called a structured settlement, allows workers older than age 55 to negotiate compensation with their employers, rather than depending on the state Department of Labor & Industries, according to Dustin Dailey, L&I program manager. That will allow businesses to hold down their workers’ comp insurance rates by closing claims more quickly, and should give eligible employees more options for receiving payouts while returning to the workforce.

Along with efforts to reduce fraud in the state workers’ compensation system and to better vet doctors and other health care providers, the introduction of a rainy day fund aimed at reducing rate increases, and other tweaks made by the state in 2011, L&I expects Washington businesses will save $1.1 billion over the next four years.

Association of Washington Business officials praised the reforms, which they’d been seeking for years.

But now L&I must interpret the broad changes outlined by the Legislature. A draft of the resulting rules is online at Structured Settlement Draft Rules.

Members of the public can influence the final rules by speaking at a public hearing, or by submitting written feedback by 5 p.m. Feb. 24 to nancy.james@lni.wa.gov or Department of Labor & Industries, P.O. Box 44208, Olympia, WA 98504.

Vancouver’s hearing will take place at 10 a.m. Feb. 21 at the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay, 100 Columbia St. Comments will also be accepted at subsequent events in Tukwila, Tumwater and Spokane.