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Clash continues over workers’ comp reform

Insurance companies and small businesses are playing hardball in their effort to establish a fee schedule for workers’ compensation medical services in Virginia, according to a trial lawyer group.

The Virginia Trial Lawyers Association has made peace on reform of workers’ comp medical costs with doctors, hospitals and a group of auto dealers, but some stakeholders apparently object to the legislative compromise.

Large workers’ compensation insurance companies and self-insured associations are “aggressively lobbying” to kill a bill designed to encourage prompt resolution of disagreements on workers’ comp medical payments and to reduce costs for some medical procedures, the VTLA said.

The opponents are taking an “all or nothing” approach in holding out for a fee schedule, the VTLA said in an alert to members.

Business interests say Virginia is an “outlier” among states by allowing payment for workers’ comp medical care at the “prevailing community rate” rather than in accordance with a government fee schedule. The result is that Virginia employers and their insurance companies pay disproportionately high medical bills on behalf of injured workers, the business lobby said.

The trial lawyers and doctors respond that Virginia has the fourth lowest workers’ comp insurance premiums in the country. Trial lawyers say injured workers could face limited options for treatment if the state imposed dramatically reduced fees for treatment.

The dispute has moved to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, chaired by Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, D-Springfield.

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