January 3, 1997
April 1, 1997 will be an important day for the state's workers' compensation community as three sets of important new Division of Workers' Compensation regulations go into effect.
DWC regulations with an April 1, 1997, effective date are an updated Schedule For Rating Permanent Disabilities, a new fee schedule for inpatient services provided by hospitals and a revised interpreter fee schedule, according to DWC Administrative Director Casey L. Young. These regulatory changes were adopted in December with a delayed effective date.
Other new rules adopted in December repeal redundant and obsolete vocational rehabilitation and permanent disability regulations, modify the data reporting requirements in the construction industry Òcarve-outÓ regulations, and make minor changes in the process for petitioning for change of treating physician.
According to Young, the new Schedule for Rating Permanent Disabilities will apply to injuries which occur on or after April 1, 1997. It overhauls the sections dealing with the occupation and age adjustments, adds some ratings that were commonly used but not previously in the schedule, eliminates archaic, unused provisions, and adds extensive instructions, examples and other guidance in the proper use of the schedule.
Updating the permanent disability rating schedule was one of the mandates of the 1993 reforms. However, this revision does not satisfy that part of the mandate requiring that standard disability ratings be updated to reflect changes in the labor market. That portion will be addressed following completion of a RAND Institute study commissioned by the Commission of Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation, which must approve any changes in standard disability ratings. That study will be completed this summer.
The inpatient hospital fee schedule establishes maximum charges for services provided by hospitals to patients who are admitted on or after April 1, 1997. That date was set as the implementation date in order to provide ample lead time for hospitals and claims administrators to add the new schedule to their systems.
Outpatient services provided by hospitals are already covered by DWC's Official Medical Fee Schedule. The requirement to create a fee schedule for inpatient services was another element in the 1993 workers' compensation reform package.
The amendments to the interpreter fee schedule will apply to all such services rendered on or after April 1, 1997. Essentially, these amendments equalize rules governing payments to Spanish language and other interpreters, requiring payment of the applicable Superior Court rate or the market rate, whichever is higher.
(Note: A summary of all the regulations adopted in December, 1996 is attached.