Friday, May 11, 2007

Worker Compensation revisions in LB 588 on final reading: the Legislature, tries to cut back on high hospitalization costs by pegging worker comp medical fees to Medicare guidelines. Still the lawyers can keep the MRI mills going because they are exempt for now from the tougher guidelines. The Unicameral also throws in a consolation earmark to the trial lawyers with Senator Nantkes amendment expanding the kinds of injuries that might qualify for loss of earnings capacity awards (but it is still optional if the functional award is greater.) Unicameral Update Online Workers' comp hospital fee schedule moves forwardLB 588 makes three major changes to the hospital fee system, exempts diagnostic providers and expands injuries eligible for loss of earning power awards. First, the bill would establish a prospective payment system for in-patient hospital services. The intent of the new system would be to provide consistency and produce savings for employers and payors. The proposed fee schedule would be based on the payment method used by Medicare. The bill would account for differences between individual hospitals by incorporating hospital-specific Medicare rates into the fee schedule and then increasing those amounts by 40 percent. Second, the bill would establish a "prompt payment" provision with the intent of reimbursing hospitals in a timelier manner. Finally, the bill would incorporate provisions from LB 77, a bill originally introduced by Lincoln Sen. Danielle Nantkes. The bill would provide that certain injured employees could be reimbursed according to their loss of earnings capacity, rather than according to the schedule set in statute. According to Cornett, the provision would ensure that at least a portion of the savings created by the new hospital fee schedule would be passed along to the injured worker. Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop offered an amendment, adopted 28-0 that would exempt diagnostic related groups for traumatic injuries from the new proposed inpatient hospital fee schedule until 2010.”

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