by Karl Voigt
Yesterday, October 24, Governor Tom Wolf, signed into law as Act 111 a bill that resurrects impairment ratings for injured workers in Pennsylvania. Impairment rating evaluations (IREs) allow insurance companies to subject an injured worker to a medical exam after receiving benefits for 104 weeks. The stricken 1996 law, if the worker was found to be less than 50% disabled in accord with the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, limited their benefits to no more than 500 weeks.
Last year, the portion of the Act that allows for IREs was struck down by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Protz v. WCAB. The Protz Court ruled that the use of the Guides – which the Association modifies without legislative supervision – is an unconstitutional delegation of authority.
Yesterday’s passage of the amendment purports to “fix” that.
Except it doesn’t.
While the new law fortunately reduces the threshold percentage of disability to 35%, it fails to remedy what the Court found wrong with the original language. It identifies the Sixth Edition of the Guides as the source of the evaluation.
It still, however, gives the AMA the right to define what impairment is and what is isn’t. That’s the duty of lawmakers. We anticipate challenging the new law at first sight.