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Pinnacol helping fine-tune workers' comp at the capitol

February 28, 2017
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Every year, we track and shape proposals in the Colorado General Assembly that could affect the cost and quality of workers’ compensation for you and your employees. As we near the halfway mark of the 2017 legislative session, very few bills affecting workers’ comp have been introduced – as we expected. Split chambers, with Republicans retaining their control of the state Senate and Democrats expanding their majority in the Statehouse, tend to minimize the number of bills focusing on workers’ comp.

Even as we monitor the bills being introduced by others, we are seeking to become a constructive problem-solver ourselves to help improve Colorado’s workers’ comp system. For example, we’re helping draft a compromise bill to finally put to rest a long-standing disagreement about whether first responders – police officers, paramedics, firefighters – should be able to receive workers’ comp benefits for PTSD. After opposing previous attempts to extend such coverage because of concerns about how they would affect other types of businesses, we have worked with the Fraternal Order of Police to develop an approach that focuses on repeated exposure to traumatic and/or violent events – the type of exposure that only those in emergency situations face. This tightly written language helps emergency workers get appropriate benefits while protecting other employers from inappropriate claims.

We’re also participating in discussions around House Bill 1119, which would establish a fund to provide benefits for the injured employees of uninsured policyholders. The fund would be financed by fining uninsured employers and redirecting funds from other purposes at the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DOWC), not by an assessment on insured employers. The DOWC is responsible for issuing fines, and this bill would give the division more discretion in how those fines are assessed and collected, enabling them to collect at least something in many cases where they currently collect nothing. The introduced version of the bill includes a provision that would allow the fund to go after the personal assets of directors and corporate officers; Pinnacol and the business community strongly oppose that clause, and we expect it will be amended out in the first hearing. We support the bill with that change.

We are monitoring and offering input on bills addressing a number of other issues of interest to both us and our policyholders:

  • Restrictions on health insurers’ ability to craft provider networks as they see fit. While these bills affect only health plans at this time, past experience has shown us that limitations on health plans can subsequently be extended to workers’ comp carriers. We are very concerned about anything that could limit our ability to determine how best to structure our SelectNet network so that injured workers receive care only from high-quality, cost-effective providers.
  • An effort by the Office of the Attorney General to crack down on insurance fraud, which we support.
  • Efforts to address overprescribing and misuse of opioids. Doctors often prescribe opioids to help injured workers deal with pain, but improper use of these medications can lead to addiction or overdose, and we are committed to doing our part to address this problem.

In addition, we monitor bills affecting the general business and regulatory climate, because bills that affect your competitiveness affect not only our business but our state’s economy as well.

You might recall we worked on our own legislative proposal in 2016 to modernize Pinnacol’s business model by allowing us to operate in other states. (Remember, Pinnacol is a governmental authority subject to a statute that limits us to providing only workers’ compensation coverage and related services, and to doing so only in Colorado.) As our industry transforms rapidly, with nimble new entrants that are not constrained as we are, this antiquated business model is an impediment to Pinnacol’s long-term viability.

Political impediments kept us from introducing that bill, so we are not attempting to pass it this year. Instead, we are focused on becoming as nimble as we can within our statutory confines – improving our digital offerings to make it easier for policyholders, agents and injured workers to interact with us online in order to be the most viable competitor possible. At some point in the future, though, we will likely need to try again to gain the flexibility needed to best serve our policyholders of today and the future.

We’ll continue to keep you updated on legislative developments throughout the session. And if you have questions about specific bills, please feel free to contact Edie Sonn, VP of Communications and Public Affairs, at 303-361-5896 or edie.sonn@pinnacol.com.

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