The Business and Labor Committee heard testimony Jan. 28 on a bill that would amend medical payment provisions of the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act.
LB291, introduced by Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, would require that medical payments be paid within 30 days after notice is given to the employer or after a final order of the compensation court.
Under the bill, 50 percent of the amount payable would be added to the charge and paid to the employee if the medical payment is not paid within 30 days.
When workers are injured on the job, the results can be devastating, Nordquist said. If medical bills are not paid in a timely manner, he added, an additional stress is placed on the family.
John Corrigan of the Nebraska AFL-CIO testified in support of the bill, citing a workers’ compensation case in which an individual went bankrupt after being sued by the hospital for unpaid medical bills.
“The incentive [of the bill] is to make sure medical payments are made in a timely manner—otherwise the purpose of the workers’ compensation law is lost,” he said.
Rich Hitz, a member of the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys, also testified in support, saying 42,000 workers’ compensation claims were made statewide and only 1,300 petitions were filed against them. The bill is creating a penalty for unpaid bills that have been deemed credible, he said.
Omaha city attorney Tim Himes testified in opposition to the bill, saying the 30-day period to pay the medical bills was too short to process, sort through and pay such claims. Additionally, he said, the bill does not clarify when the 30-day period begins.
Timothy Clarke of Nebraskans for Workers’ Compensation Equity and Fairness also testified in opposition. Current law already compensates employees fairly, he said, so paying additional sums to them would provide a “windfall” to injured workers.
The committee took no immediate action on the bill.