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In the latest edition of The Legal Intelligencer, Managing Partner Sam Pond and Associate Susan Nanes discuss two recent victories for the rights of Pennsylvania workers that took place on June 20th, 2017. Their article, “The Protz Redemption,” explains the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s ruling on Impairment Rating Evaluations (IREs) and the fate of House Bill 18 (HB 18), proposed legislation that threatened the very foundation of the Workers’ Compensation Act.

In Protz v.WCAB (Derry Area School District), 6 & 7 WAP 2016 (Pa. June 20, 2017), the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania handed down a complete rejection of the current statutory provisions governing Impairment Rating Evaluations (IREs), finding them to be unconstitutional. As of now, IREs are no longer permitted in workers’ compensation cases in Pennsylvania. This means that insurance companies and employers that seek to strip injured workers’ of needed benefits must go through a more extensive process to seek a reduction in disability status.

“Employers seeking to modify an injured worker’s disability status from total to partial must go through the adjudicative process, marshal evidence, and prove their case,” said Sam and Susan in their article, illustrating the new procedure.

The second victory was the defeat of HB 18, which was proposed in February of 2017 by Representative Ryan Mackenzie. Disguised as a way to combat opioid abuse, HB 18 “would have put in place strict regulations on the ability of doctors to provide and prescribe all manner of treatment and medications to injured workers, not just opioids for pain management,” the article explains. The proposed legislation would have created a barrier between doctors and their patients, resulting in subpar medical treatment…or none at all. Like other “reforms” proposed by Representative Mackenzie over the years, the true aim of HB 18 was to effectively dismantle the protections established through workers’ compensation that have been in place for over 100 years.

“This year, House Bill 18 made it out of committee after a tough battle, then was finally defeated in a minute-by-minute floor fight in Harrisburg,” Sam and Susan explain. “Injured workers and the doctors who care for them are safe for now, but Rep. Mackenzie shows no signs of backing down and can take advantage of his party’s advantageous numbers in the General Assembly to try again next year.”

While recent victories for the rights of injured workers in Pennsylvania should be celebrated, it’s important that we continue to fight for these rights that are constantly under attack.

“At the end of the day on June 20, 2017, we felt hopeful,” state Sam and Susan. “Hopeful that we can continue to help injured workers, hopeful that these efforts make a difference for them as well as for others who come after, and hopeful that bad laws can be changed.”

Click here to read the full article.

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