Legislature(2013 - 2014)BARNES 124
03/26/2014 03:15 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 316-WORKERS' COMPENSATION MEDICAL FEES 3:39:44 PM CHAIR OLSON announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 316 "An Act relating to workers' compensation fees for medical treatment and services; relating to workers' compensation regulations; and providing for an effective date." [Version O was before the committee, adopted on 3/10/14.] 3:40:12 PM ANNA LATHAM, Staff, Representative Kurt Olson, Alaska State Legislature, stated that HB 316 proposes to change the medical schedule for workers' compensation from a usual and customary and reasonable (URC) schedule with a geographical differential built at the 90th percentile, which the state has been using for the past ten years, to a fee schedule based on the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a resource-based relative value scale, along with the conversion factor the Workers' Compensation Board will set under the advisement of the Medical Services Review Committee (MSRC). 3:41:06 PM REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD made a motion to adopt Amendment  labeled 28-LS1362\O.5, Wallace, 3/24/14, which read as follows: Page 4, line 16: Delete "January 1, 2015" Insert "July 1, 2015" CHAIR OLSON objected for the purpose of discussion. 3:41:22 PM MS. LATHAM explained that this change would give the MSRC an additional six months to reconvene and set the original conversion factors; the committee has not met since 2009. CHAIR OLSON explained that [Amendment 2] is an attempt to [set the fee schedule appropriately], and the additional six months will allow the MSRC adequate time to make sure to get "all the kinks out of it." 3:42:17 PM REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked which organization will have the delay. MS. LATHAM answered that the MSRC will have the additional time to reconvene. The MSRC will advise the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) on setting the conversion factors. She stated that originally some concern was expressed about the WCB setting the schedules since the board doesn't have the expertise, the medical background, or experience to do so. She related that in the proposed committee substitute, [Version O], the MSRC is designated as the committee to advise the WCB. CHAIR OLSON removed his objection. There being no further objection, Amendment 2 was adopted. 3:43:23 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON said he was unsure of the goal of the bill and expressed concern that the legislature is delegating a considerable amount and delegating some of that to the MSRC, which has been defunct. CHAIR OLSON suggested "inactive" might be a better choice. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON agreed. He said he did not hear enough testimony whether needs of injured workers will continue to be met in workers' compensation law. The committee heard testimony from concerned doctors who said if the rates are significantly reduced, doctors will not be able to see these patients. Additionally, an attorney, Michael J. Jensen, sent a letter to that effect [in members' packets]. He recapped his fundamental concerns, including concerns about prescription drugs, although he acknowledged he may propose some amendments later. CHAIR OLSON reminded Representative Josephson that the prescription drugs are not part of this bill. 3:45:01 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON argued that prescription benefits are part of HB 316. He noted previous testimony from the Workers' Compensation Committee of Alaska on March 7, 2014, indicating that doctors have a "blank check" for two years without any recourse to question or limit costs. He said that may or may not be true; however, he expressed concern that too much regulation might be occurring. Certainly, premium costs need to be reduced. He questioned, as raised by testimony in an unrelated bill, whether some of these premiums are related to the high costs in Alaska since rates are high across the board, not just for workers' compensation patients. Primarily, he would like to afford injured workers time to get better access to medical care. CHAIR OLSON told him that he shares this goal. 3:46:14 PM MICHAEL MONAGLE, Director, Central Office, Division of Workers' Compensation, Department of Labor & Workforce Development (DLWD), echoed the Chair's comments. It is certainly not the department's intent to reduce medical fees to the point that doctors will not treat injured workers and direct them elsewhere to get the quality of treatment needed. Certainly, as the department works with the MSRC and the WCB to achieve conversion factors, it will not be his intent to reduce reimbursement to doctors to the point that doctors refuse to treat injured workers. 3:47:15 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON declared a conflict of interest as he has an existing workers' compensation claim of his own stemming from a car accident injury. In response to a question, he answered that it is incumbent upon him to make the record clear. He then said, "I would love to vote." CHAIR OLSON thanked him for declaring the conflict. 3:47:52 PM CHAIR OLSON reported that Representative Millett is on-line. REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD moved to report the proposed committee substitute (CS) for HB 316, Version O, labeled 28-LS1362\O, Wallace, 3/10/14, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, the CSHB 316(L&C) was reported from the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.