A new bill proposed in the Tennessee state legislature could allow companies in the state to “opt out” of workers’ compensation guidelines established by a 2013 law. This bill could allow companies to opt out of state guidelines and adopt their own. While proponents of the bill say this can improve workers’ compensation benefits for employees, opponents of the bill believe companies will be able to cut benefits. How this will actually play out if the bill is passed is unknown at this time, but it could represent a serious upheaval to the existing workers’ compensation paradigm in the state.
The Old Law: Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Act
The 2013 Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Act established state guidelines for workers’ compensation that companies were required to abide by. This law set a general process for how long workers can receive benefits, what kinds of doctors and hospitals companies must use and timelines for applying for these benefits. The law also established what kinds of medical expenses can be covered and set different guidelines for temporary and permanent disabilities, and also for death benefits.
The New Bill: The Tennessee Options Bill
Under the new bill, companies would be allowed to opt out of state guidelines and adopt their own rules for dealing with workers’ compensation. Instead of being regulated by the state, companies would have to adhere to the minimum guidelines established by the Federal Employees Retirement Income Security Act. This means that Tennessee would cede their responsibility for regulating these companies workers’ comp plans to the federal government.
As long as companies adhere to the federal minimum standards, they have room to alter their current plans, changing anything from benefits to covered injuries to timelines for applying for workers’ compensation. While these plans will vary from company to company, those workers’ benefiting from the current law may find this new bill troubling as they could see their benefits reduced.
This new bill is touted as a free market alternative to the current system, allowing businesses to choose from a variety of caregivers and insurers in an effort to cut costs for the program. Opponents fear that these costs will be cut by reducing overall benefits to the employee.
The state’s Advisory Council on Workers’ Compensation, a nonpartisan group that provides information on workers’ compensation to the Tennessee legislature and other state institutions, voted unanimously to not approve the Options Bill. While the group did not decry the premise of the bill, they wanted more information about how similar opt out rules fared for workers’ benefits in states like Oklahoma and Texas where similar bills were passed.
Contact a Nashville Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Applying for workers’ compensation is a complicated process, fraught with red tape and legal obstacles. To ensure that you receive the maximum benefits for your work-related injury, a skilled lawyer is key. Your employer usually wants to pay as little for your injury and may fight you at every step. A good Nashville workers’ compensation attorney can see that you get lasting benefits and fair compensation for your pain.