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Worker’s Compensation Overhaul Approved By Senate

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 30 Apr 2012 07:59pm | comments

The Mississippi's workers compensation system could be overhauled under a bill approved by the state legislature. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that supports of the bill say it will return fairness to a system too biased toward workers.

Both the House and Senate put their stamp of approval on the changes in votes yesterday.

Supporters say it's a way to bring balance to the systembut opponents believethe changes would make it difficult for people who are hurt on the jobtoreceive compensation.

The bill has the support of many businesses groups, and Representative Mark Formby of Picayune took to the house floor with a stack of letters to demonstrate that support.

"All different letters from all different people who deal with workers comp every day who feel like we are reaching a fairer worker’s comp law with this bill," Formby said.

The bill will bring a number of changes.

Such as requiring raising the burden of proof on employees that the injury was work related, attempting to limit doctor shopping and allowing drug testing, even for legal but improperly used prescription drugs.

It also increases benefits for certain types of injury or death.

After the House approved the bill, House Democrats held press conference to call on the Senate to vote against it.

Representative Robert Johnson of Natchez says the bill is designed to give companies a way out of paying workers comp claims.

"You are letting big insurance companies and corporations off the hook and then you are turning around and putting it back on the tax payers. Because if workers compensation doesn't pay the claims Medicaid, Medicare, hospital emergency rooms. The people of Mississippi will have to pay for this," Johnson said.

But after an hour of debate, the Senate too approved the bill sending it onto the governor's desk.
Lt. Governor Tate Reeves applauded the vote, saying the bill is fair to employers and employees.

"That we insure that the playing field is level for the employer and employee. In the event of a legitimate claim than the workers comp carrier must pay. But we also have to have a level playing field so the employers can protect themselves when that is not the case," Reeves said.

If the governor signs the bill it would take effect July First.

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