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An ‘Extreme Makeover’ for NV Workers Comp

March 9, 2009

Carson City, NV – Industrial insurance, commonly known as "workers compensation," would get a major overhaul if AB 178 becomes law. The bill addresses labor representatives' concerns that insurance companies have become increasingly selective about the injuries they will cover and that some employers are seeking retaliatory action against employees who are injured while working and file claims.

One of the goals of AB 178 is to prevent misunderstandings about insurance claims for on-the-job injuries. Now, a worker may receive an approval letter for a specific type of treatment – say, a hip injury – but if anything else is found in the course of that treatment, such as a back problem, the additional claim may be denied.

Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer, Nevada State AFL-CIO, says this scenario is happening more and more often.

"It has become very commonplace in Nevada to have a letter of acceptance not appealed, and then, when you go for the other treatment, you're denied. Hearing officers actually have said, 'Well, you didn't appeal the acceptance letter.' It's something that needs to be fixed."

Thompson points out that most people wouldn't think to file an appeal when their claim has been accepted.

He adds that the current system gives insurance companies the power to deny related claims, even while people are still hospitalized for their injuries.

"If you get a letter saying your claim is accepted, you're operating under the assumption that it is. This would clarify that the insurer has to accept the claim and if they are going to deny something else, they have to spell it out."

In an Assembly committee hearing, insurance companies argued they shouldn't have to pay for medical problems that they're not sure are related. The bill requires insurers to specify in writing what they will - and will not - cover. The bill also penalizes employers for retaliating against, or refusing to re-hire, workers who have filed injury claims.

The bill, AB 178, has had its first Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee hearing.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - NV