The Oregon legislature met for a short regular session in early 2022, but we saw some significant changes to the workers’ compensation system in that brief time. The legislature passed the following changes, although some are currently awaiting the governor’s signature:
SB 1560 – Changes “alien” to “nonresident” throughout Oregon law. This is not specific to workers compensation issues and not intended to make substantive changes.
SB 1585 – Allows Oregon Health Authority to share information about workplace deaths related to COVID-19 so that workers’ next of kin are notified of potential death benefits.
HB 4113 – Adds bladder and female reproductive cancers to the list of cancers presumed compensable for non-volunteer firefighters with five or more years of service. The measure also requires MLAC to consider a study to be released by NIOSH on firefighter cancers in relation to the presumption of compensability.
HB 4138 – Makes significant changes to temporary disability payments with a focus on limiting the impact on large overpayments being asserted against a worker. While some of the provisions were ones we supported, there were a lot of concerns with the bill. The approved changes are the result of several years of negotiation between the trial attorneys and the defense. These changes will not apply until January 1, 2024 to allow for any necessary rulemaking and to allow for insurers to update their claim processes.
Allows attending physicians to retroactively authorize temporary disability for up to 45 days instead of the current 14 days;
Confirms temporary disability authorization limitations do not apply when a claim is denied, there is aa dispute over who the attending physician is, or if the insurer does not provide notice of when benefits will end;
Requires insurer to send the worker a notice explaining when benefits will end and the reason benefits will end;
Prevents an attending physician from declaring a worker medically stationary more than 60 days prior to the determination;
Requires insurer to notify the worker when they are declared medically stationary;
Limits an insurer from recovering more than 50% of an overpayment out of the PPD awarded at closure;
Limits insurer from asserting an overpayment on compensation paid more than two years prior.
The temporary disability changes by far are the broadest change we saw this session and each major point in the bill warrants further discussion on claim processing.
For example, confirming the authorization limitations do not apply on a denied claim means the worker is not required to treat with a specific attending physician or have a new release every 30 days, but further discussion and possibly rulemaking may be needed to clarify how we determine benefits once the denial has been set aside by litigation or negotiations.
Additionally, providing the worker notice explaining when benefits will end and what is needed to continue benefits certainly helps clarify the worker’s obligation in our processing, but further discussion will be needed on how to implement those notices into a claim.
As the rule making process develops to help implement these legislative changes, we will need input from employers, insurers, and claims examiners. If you have question though on any immediate impact on your claims, please feel free to contact me.