In back-to-back news reports this week, a spokesperson for Senate Labor Chairman Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) and Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) both indicated that passage of a bill enacting a workers compensation fee schedule in Wisconsin is unlikely this session.
Nass, as chairman of the Senate Labor and Regulatory Reform Committee, called for a rare procedural move known as Committee introduction of the bill, requiring a vote of the Committee to introduce the legislation on behalf of that Committee rather than by one single lawmaker. The move was seen by many as a way to allow the bill to be heard in the Senate Labor Committee even though the legislation, which was developed by the Workers Compensation Advisory Council, has received little to no support in the state capitol.
A spokesperson for Nass told WisPolitics.com the procedural move “by no means” indicates the bill would be moving out of the Committee. Nass’ spokesperson said that “[Senator Nass] will not be scheduling the bill for a vote as long as the fee schedule is in it.”
WHA President/CEO Eric Borgerding applauded Nass’ firm opposition to government rate setting for medical care provided to those injured at Wisconsin businesses. “We thank Chairman Nass, who has heard from constituents that a government fee schedule is the wrong approach to lowering workplace injuries and reducing overall costs in our state’s workers compensation program,” said Borgerding.
After Nass’ announcement, Speaker Robin Vos subsequently told several media outlets that a workers compensation fee schedule is one of a handful of proposed policies he does not see passing the Assembly this session. In an interview with WisPolitics.com, Vos stated that workers compensation premiums have dropped for the second year in a row, saving businesses in Wisconsin $170 million in 2017 alone according to the Department of Workforce Development, which has “raised questions for him” on whether a fee schedule is needed.
“If there’s not a crisis, the groups should find a consensus and come to us with a solution, not expect that we’re going to try to do one through the process we utilize,” Vos told WisPolitics.com in the interview.
WHA President/CEO Eric Borgerding said, “Speaker Vos understands the position of his caucus, which is overwhelmingly opposed to implementing a government-imposed medical fee schedule in our state’s workers compensation program. As other states look to Wisconsin’s workers comp system with envy, point to it as a model, some here would have policymakers believe we are in some sort of crisis. The broader facts tell a much different story, and WHA applauds the Republicans and Democrats in both houses who understand this, and are increasingly unwilling to rubber stamp all-or-nothing proposals coming out of the Workers Compensation Advisory Council.”
WHA has joined several other groups to oppose price setting for health care delivered to those injured at Wisconsin businesses. Many of those same groups are optimistic that alternative bills will emerge from within the Legislature, proposals that will further improve care for those injured in the workplace while streamlining the multi-layered bureaucracy that has evolved around the workers compensation industry.
“The job of developing workers compensation legislation should not be solely within the purview of an advisory council, nor should making progress on improving workers compensation be held up by controversial fee schedules,” Borgerding said. “We are anxious and looking forward to working with legislators and a broad coalition of groups to support an actual agreed to bill that will advance sound reforms.”