Legislature(1997 - 1998)
04/06/1998 03:18 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 475 - REHABILITATION OF INJURED WORKERS Number 0074 CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG announced the committee's first order of business was HB 475, "An Act establishing a standard for determining when an injured worker is eligible for reemployment benefits and establishing a procedure for adopting a new, revised, or replacement standard for determining when an injured worker is eligible for reemployment benefits." He noted the bill had been introduced at the request of his daughter who works for Alaska National Insurance Company; he hopes he does not have a conflict of interest there. Chairman Rokeberg stated, "There is a Senate bill, and this is one of the amendments we were talking about on the floor this morning. However, given that this is very similar to the bill that I sponsored in this past last session regarding the worker's compensation guide to - to adopt it by statute - it's in statute now, we need to update the revised version and provide for a mechanism of which to go forward." He confirmed there was not a proposed committee substitute and asked if there were any witnesses for HB 475. The sponsor statement reads: This bill encourages government efficiency and allows the department to stay current when a new or revised edition of the United States Department of Labor, "Selected Characteristics of Occupations Defined in the Revised Dictionary of Occupations Titles" is issued. The bill gives the board 90 days after the new edition is published to hold and hearing and adopt the new standard. Number 0220 DWIGHT PERKINS, Special Assistant, Office of the Commissioner, Department of Labor (DOL), came forward to testify in support of HB 475. He said Mr. Grossi, the director of the DOL's Division of Workers' Compensation, was on teleconference to speak to the bill. Mr. Perkins said the department does support the legislation and stated, "Thank you for clearing up the request of the introduction of the bill. We saw it on the Senate side, but we were unclear on the House side ... we do support it, and you're absolutely right, Mr. Chairman, it has to do, similar to the last year legislation that you introduced with the workers' comp." Number 0280 PAUL GROSSI, Director, Division of Workers' Compensation, Department of Labor, testified next via teleconference from Anchorage in support of HB 475. He commented he doesn't know there is much more for him to say. As the chairman mentioned, HB 475 is very similar to the bill on the AMA Impairment Rating guides allowing for the automatic adoption by reference of the publication. He said this deals with rehabilitation issues, to physical and mental job requirements. The bill allows for the automatic adoption without the need for additional legislation or regulation, and the department looks at it as a streamlining process. He stated, "There's not a whole lot more to say about that, other than this one took a little bit more thinking about because the Department of Labor sometimes doesn't just change the edition, they change the title and so on and so forth, but we do believe that the way the - this legislation is drafted that it'll work just fine." Number 0370 CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG confirmed with Mr. Grossi that the 1993 edition which is the latest edition, would be put in the statute, but the provision is provided in Section 2, subsection (q), of the bill for the adoption as it is reissued in its subsequent editions ["* Sec. 2. AS 23.30.041 is amended by adding a new subsection to read: (q) ..."]. MR. GROSSI answered in the affirmative. CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG said the language in subsection (q) was like the language in the guide last year for the public notice and hearings to establish the date, so that everyone had ample notice it was going to be adopted. MR. GROSSI confirmed that was correct. Number 0414 CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG asked if this particular dictionary of occupational titles was in any way controversial within the area of workers' compensation. MR. GROSSI replied not that he knows of, commenting he has never heard that. CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG asked if there were two competing publishers with similar publications. MR. GROSSI said this is published by the United States Department of Labor, and he does not believe there is any competitor for this particular publication. CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG said, "Not as we find with the plumbing code, for example." MR. GROSSI answered in the negative. CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG noted Mr. Perkins said the administration department supports this, asking if that was correct. MR. GROSSI answered in the affirmative. CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG asked if he recalled the age of the existing edition. Number 0486 MR. GROSSI said the department is currently using a 1981 edition; HB 475 would automatically adopt the most current edition, the 1993 edition, and allow for adoption of future publications. CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG said he suspected there have been a lot of different job categories created in those almost 17 years. MR. GROSSI said that was correct, commenting there have been changes in the existing jobs. Number 0525 REPRESENTATIVE TOM BRICE asked Mr. Grossi what this dictionary is specifically, requesting he expand a bit. MR. GROSSI replied it basically describes the physical and mental requirements of a job, and allows an administrator or adjudicator to determine what would be the appropriate retraining plan. REPRESENTATIVE BRICE said, then, it basically sets out the requirements of somebody's job prior to an injury and whether or not that person is capable of fulfilling those duties again after an injury. MR. GROSSI answered that was correct. Number 0595 REPRESENTATIVE JOHN COWDERY said he wasn't sure if this was a related question but would like to receive an answer at some point. He asked "Say, in a scenario where you have -- the main wage earner of a family gets injured substantially, and say is recouping for a year or two after the injury, and say one member of his family say falls out of a tree or something and breaks an arm ... 18 months after his injury, is that child, since he's been on workman's comp or injured, is he - that child covered (indisc.) injury?" Number 0647 MR. GROSSI indicated the question was not really relevant to HB 475, but added the child would not be covered through the workers' compensation insurance policy. He stated, "It would depend on whether the person had a ... health insurance policy that covered the child." REPRESENTATIVE COWDERY indicated he would pursue an answer further. Number 0694 CHARLIE MILLER, Lobbyist for Alaska National Insurance Company, came forward to testify in support of HB 475. He said the bill was similar to the one the previous year that satisfies the public notice requirement for the new editions, and puts in the 1993 edition by statute so it does not have to go through that process for this transfer. Mr. Miller stated Alaska National Insurance Company supports HB 475, indicating he cannot see any reason why the most up-to-date edition should not be used. He said the company does not have any problems with the bill. The only concern last year was that the company have sufficient time to make the transfer; he said the 90 days seems adequate to the people in the company he has talked to. Mr. Miller confirmed that, because there is no effective date, it would take place in 90 days, giving the company the same 90-day period to make sure it had the editions in house. CHAIRMAN ROKEBERG asked Mr. Miller if he wanted a more immediate effective date. MR. MILLER said they think the 90 days is adequate to get editions and get their people "on board" with the new edition. Number 0790 REPRESENTATIVE JOE RYAN made a motion to move HB 475 out of committee with the attached committee zero fiscal note and individual recommendations. There being no objections, it was so ordered.