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PENNSYLVANIA GOV. CASEY CALLS ON SENATE TO PASS MEANINGFUL WORKERS' COMPENSATION REFORM

 PENNSYLVANIA GOV. CASEY CALLS ON SENATE TO PASS
 MEANINGFUL WORKERS' COMPENSATION REFORM
 HARRISBURG, Pa., May 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Gov. Robert P. Casey today urged the full Senate to reject special interest legislation and pass promptly meaningful workers' compensation reform to protect Pennsylvania business against a 52 percent increase in workers' compensation insurance rates.
 Casey said legislation approved by a Senate committee:
 -- failed to block a 52 percent increase in workers' compensation rates proposed by the Pennsylvania Compensation Rating Bureau;
 -- will not contain medical costs while lining the pockets of doctors;
 -- achieves savings for business only at the expense of injured workers.
 "I urge the Senate to restore the provisions of the workers' compensation bill passed by the House that would immediately protect our businesses from a $1.5 billion rate increase and hold down costs in the future," Casey said at a Capitol news conference.
 The Pennsylvania Compensation Rating Bureau, a non-governmental entity which represents the insurance industry in matters before the state Insurance Department, has proposed a 51.2 percent increase in workers' compensation insurance rates.
 The increase, if approved, would increase premiums paid by Pennsylvania businesses by $1.5 billion.
 The governor said a workers' compensation plan reported out of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee last month is "totally unacceptable."
 The House version of Casey's plan would cap medical payments at 113 percent of the amount applicable under Medicare, saving businesses an estimated 25 percent in workers' compensation costs compared with the current system.
 Under the Senate plan, reimbursements for doctors and hospitals would range from 140 to 188 percent of Medicare and would result in little, if any, savings, according to the state Insurance Department.
 Casey noted medical cost containment provisions in the state's auto insurance law saved motorists $400 million, and will keep medical costs under control for years to come. The provisions are similar to the cost containment measures included in the House bill.
 Casey added that the medical reimbursement fee schedule in the Senate plan would give medical providers more money for virtually all forms of treatment for injured workers.
 For example, he said providers would receive $2,929 for a back operation under the Senate plan. In contrast, the provider would be paid only $1,163 under the governor's plan.
 In addition, providers would receive $1,773 for knee surgery under the Senate plan, compared with $949 under the governor's plan.
 The governor also outlined a number of examples of how the Senate bill would affect the benefits of injured workers.
 For example, Casey pointed to a 61-year-old mail room worker who is forced into early retirement after being injured on the job. Under current law, she would be entitled to workers' compensation benefits of $13,320 a year.
 Under the Senate plan, her workers' compensation payment would be offset by her pension, meaning she would receive only $4,480 in payments for her injuries.
 In addition to the medical cost containment provision, the House bill (H.B. 2140), based on Casey's reform package proposed last September, would:
 -- Establish workplace safety comittees and encourage loss control programs to reduce the number and severity of accidents on the job, a provision that is eliminated in the Senate version.
 -- Introduce competitive rates that would allow employers to shop for the lowest premiums.
 -- Allow small businesses, municipalities and school districts to self-insure through the pooling of liabilities.
 "These reforms go right to the heart of what is driving workers' compensation costs higher and higher every year," Casey said. "We can achieve real long-term savings without taking away vitally needed benefits from injured workers and their families."
 /delval/
 -0- 5/4/92
 /CONTACT: Spike Lukens of the Commonwealth News Bureau, 717-783-1116/ CO: Pennsylvania Governor's Office ST: Pennsylvania IN: SU:


CC -- PH033 -- 6081 05/04/92 13:11 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:May 4, 1992
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