Bill Summary for S 544 (2011-2012)

Summary date: 

Apr 7 2011

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2011-2012 Session
Senate Bill 544 (Public) Filed Thursday, April 7, 2011
PROTECTING AND PUTTING NORTH CAROLINA BACK TO WORK BY REFORMING THE WORKERS' COMPENSATION ACT TO (1) DEFINE "SUITABLE EMPLOYMENT" PERTAINING TO AN EMPLOYEE'S RETURN TO WORK WITHIN RESTRICTIONS OR AFTER REACHING MAXIMUM IMPROVEMENT; (2) MAKE WILLFUL MISREPRESENTATIONS GROUNDS FOR DISQUALIFICATION FROM RECEIVING BENEFITS; (3) PROVIDE THAT PARTIES MAY REACH A SEPARATE CONTEMPORANEOUS AGREEMENT TO RESOLVE ISSUES NOT COVERED BY THE ACT; (4) CLARIFY THE RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES REGARDING MEDICAL EXAMINATIONS, TREATMENT, AND ACCESS TO MEDICAL INFORMATION; (5) CAP THE DURATION OF COMPENSATION FOR TEMPORARY TOTAL DISABILITY; (6) EXTEND FROM THREE HUNDRED TO FIVE HUNDRED THE NUMBER OF WEEKS AN INJURED EMPLOYEE IS ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE COMPENSATION FOR PARTIAL INCAPACITY; (7) INCREASE THE DEATH BENEFIT AND BURIAL EXPENSE ALLOWANCE; (8) REDUCE THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION FROM SEVEN TO FIVE MEMBERS SUBJECT TO LEGISLATIVE CONFIRMATION; (9) PROVIDE THAT COMMISSIONERS AND DEPUTY COMMISSIONERS ARE SUBJECT TO THE CODE OF JUDICIAL STANDARDS; AND (10) REPEAL THE COMMISSION'S FULL EXEMPTION FROM THE ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE ACT, THEREBY SUBJECTING THE COMMISSION TO RULE MAKING PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 2A OF CHAPTER 150B OF THE GENERAL STATUTES AND REQUIRING THE COMMISSION TO READOPT RULES PURSUANT TO THAT ARTICLE.
Intro. by Brown, Apodaca, Davis.

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Bill summary

Identical to H 709, filed 4/6/11.

Effective July 1, 2011, amends GS 97-2 to define suitable employment as any employment available that (1) prior to reaching maximum medical improvement is within the employee's work restrictions including rehabilitative employment approved by the employee's treating health care provider or (2) after reaching maximum medical improvement is employment which the employee is capable of performing considering the employee's education, physical limitations due to the injury, vocational skills, and experience.
Effective July 1, 2011, adds new GS 97-12.1 to prohibit compensation for injury or accident or occupational disease if an employer proves that: (1) at the time of hire or in the course of entering into employment; (2) at the time of receiving notice of the removal of conditions from a conditional offer of employment; or (3) during the course of a post-offer medical examination: (a) the employee knowingly and willfully made a false representation as to the employee's physical condition; (b) the employer relied upon one or more false representations by the employee, and the reliance was a substantial factor in the employer's decision to hire the employee; and (c) there was a causal connection between false representation by the employee and the injury or occupational disease.
Amends GS 97-25 to repeal authority of the Industrial Commission (Commission) to order further treatments in its discretion in case of a controversy arising between an employer and employee relative to the continuance of medical, surgical, hospital, or other treatment. Specifies that the Commission may order a change of treatment or health care provider at the request of an employee only if the Commission finds that the change is based upon clear and convincing medical evidence. Specifies that the Commission must disregard any opinions of an unauthorized health care provider. Repeals authority for an injured employee to select a physician of his own choosing to attend, prescribe, and assume the care and charge of his case.
Amends GS 97-25.6 to authorize an employer to obtain medical records of the employee and communicate with an employee's health care providers, without the express authorization of the employee, if certain criteria are met. Authorizes the Commission, upon motion by an employee or the health care provider from whom medical records, reports, or information are sought or upon its own motion, to make any order to protect an employee, health care provider, or other person from unreasonable annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense. Exempts any communications concerning an independent medical evaluation for the purpose of expert testimony. Directs the Commission to establish annually a fee to compensate health care providers for time spent communicating with the employer or representatives of the employee. Directs employee to furnish to the employer, upon written request, any medical records or reports that reflect evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment of the particular injury or disease for which compensation is sought or is reasonably related to the injury or disease for which the employee seeks compensation. Specifies that provisions in statute supersede prohibition against ex parte communications and privacy of medical records in the custody of health care providers.
Amends GS 97-27 to require an employee who claims compensation for an injury, upon request of his or her employer or order of the Commission, to submit to an independent medical examination by a physician who is licensed and practicing in North Carolina, even if the employee's claim has been denied pursuant to GS 97-18(c). Authorizes the employee to have any physician provided and paid by the employee present at the exam. Authorizes an employee who is dissatisfied with the percentage of permanent disability to seek another opinion solely on the issue of the percentage of permanent disability provided by a duly qualified physician of the employee's choosing who is licensed and practicing in North Carolina. Authorizes an employer or the Industrial Commission to require an autopsy in the case of a death of an employee.
Effective July 1, 2011, amends GS 97-29 to specify that if the incapacity for work resulting from an occupational disease is total, the employer is required to pay specified disability compensation to the employee. Limits compensation payments for temporary disabilities. Requires payment of compensation during the lifetime of a permanently disabled employee. Specifies the conditions under which an employee is considered permanently disabled.
Effective July 1, 2011, makes conforming changes to GS 97-30.
Effective July 1, 2011, amends GS 97-32 to provide that an injured employee is not entitled to compensation if he or she refuses suitable employment, unless the Commission determines that the refusal is justified. Authorizes an employer to contact an employee directly about returning to suitable employment.
Effective July 1, 2011, amends GS 97-38 to increase the maximum amount of burial expenses that must be paid by an employer to $10,000 (was $3,500) if death results proximately from compensable injury or occupational disease within a certain time period. Also increases maximum number of weekly compensation payments due on account of death to 500 weeks (was, 400 weeks) from the date of the death of the employee.
Amends GS 97-77 to reduce number of members of Industrial Commission to five (was, seven) and to set members terms at six years. Prohibits a person from serving more than two terms on the Commission. Provides that appointments of commissioners are subject to confirmation by the General Assembly by joint resolution, and specifies nomination procedures and procedures to fill vacancies. Makes other conforming changes.
Adds new GS 97-78.1 to specify that the standards of judicial conduct for judges in Article 30 of Chapter 7A of the General Statutes apply to commissioners and deputy commissioners.
Amends GS 97-80 to require the Commission to adopt rules to carry out the provisions of this Article.
Effective July 1, 2011, amends GS 97-84 to require the Commission, in the case of a dispute, to decide the case and issue findings of fact based upon the preponderance of the evidence in view of the entire record.
Effective May 1, 2011, amends GS 150B-1(c) to remove the Industrial Commission from the list of agencies that are completely exempt from Chapter 150B of the General Statutes.
Effective May 1, 2011, amends GS 150B-1(e) to add the Industrial Commission to the list of agencies that are exempt from the contested case provisions of Chapter 150B of the General Statutes.
Effective May 1, 2011, directs the Industrial Commission to adopt all rules contained in Title 4 of Chapter 10 of the North Carolina Administrative Code in accordance with Article 2A of Chapter 150B of the General Statutes. Specifies that any existing rule that is not readopted by December 31, 2012, expires.
Specifies the terms of the seven members of the Industrial Commission as of February 1, 2011. Makes the reduction to five commissioners effective by not filling the two offices that expire June 30, 2012. Makes reduction from three commissioners to two in the employee and employer categories and the qualification of the fifth commissioner effective July 1, 2012.

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