New Workers’ Compensation Reform Law Will Reduce Costs For Businesses/increase Benefits For Workers

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

March 13, 2007

State Senator Charles Fuschillo today announced an historic new law to reform workers’ compensation insurance that will reduce costs for business while increasing benefits for injured workers in New York State. Under the new law, employer costs, which are now some of the highest in the nation, will be cut by ten to fifteen percent, and benefits for injured workers will see an increase for the first time in 15 years.

Senator Fuschillo (Merrick) said, "These long-needed reforms are a win for workers and employers alike. Injured workers will be able to get the critical assistance they need, while businesses will finally get a break from high workers’ compensation costs. With these significant reforms now in place, we are sending a strong message that New York State is open for business."

Richard Bivone, President of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce said, "Lowering the cost of doing business on Long Island is essential to helping make our businesses successful. These new workers’ compensation reforms are a giant step forward and will significantly improve the business climate here in New York State."

The reforms are expected to save businesses $1 billion, with savings as soon as next year. The new law also includes a vigorous crackdown on fraud by business and employees, and a premium "rewards" program for companies that reduce worker injuries by improving their workplace safety record.

Highlights of the Workers’ Compensation Reform Law include the following:

> Reduce employer costs for workers’ comp insurance premiums by ten to fifteen percent, an estimated savings of nearly $1 billion.

> The maximum weekly benefit for injured workers increased from $400 to $500 in the first year, $550 in the second year, $600 in the third year, and to two-thirds of the average weekly wage in New York in the fourth year. Once the maximum benefit reaches two-thirds of the average weekly wage, the maximum benefit will be indexed annually.

> The minimum weekly benefit increased from $40 to $100.

> A safety net created for disabled workers to help them get back to work and more assistance will be available for people classified as more than 80 percent disabled.

> Penalties and sanctions will be increased to crack down on workers’ compensation fraud committed by businesses and by employees.

> A costly loophole (the Second Injury Fund) that allows some insurance carriers to avoid paying claims will be closed, resulting in further reduction in special assessment costs to employers in New York State.

> Innovative programs will be established to get workers prompt medical treatment and help them return to work, in addition to premium credits for employers who create one or all of the following programs: a program to get injured employees back to work, a worker safety program, or a drug and alcohol program.

In addition to the reforms addressed in the legislation, a legislative Task Force will work with the Superintendent of Insurance, the Department of Labor and the Workers’ Compensation Board to pursue additional reforms and make recommendations about additional legislation.