From the capitol | a legislative update
Preserving SAIF's capital and strengthening Oregon’s collaborative approach to workers’ comp were major issues in the 2019 session.
posted August 13, 2019
The most critical items this session were the preservation of SAIF's capital and the strengthening of Oregon's unique collaborative approach to workers' comp, which brings labor and business together to vet workers' comp legislation through the Management Labor Advisory Committee (MLAC). Interest groups that tried to bypass the MLAC process were unsuccessful until they heeded legislative direction to take their issues to MLAC. SAIF is a major contributor to MLAC through expert testimony and by providing data on the impacts of legislative changes.
SAIF has been the catalyst in forming a coalition of business and labor groups that has held meetings with key and new legislators to educate them on workers' comp. The well-received meetings provided a brief history of the workers' comp system and emphasized the importance of the vetting of legislation by MLAC.
SAIF capital at the Capitol
There were proposals to take a portion of SAIF's capital base to help reduce the unfunded liability of the state PERS retirement system. Some of these proposals were quite aggressive and created considerable concern on the part of SAIF staff, our board, and key stakeholders.
These proposals were not successful. SAIF's capital remains in place.
Throughout the legislative process, countless agents, business associations, employers, and employees let their voices be heard on this issue. Even though this session is over, there is always the chance that new proposals to take SAIF's capital could arise in the future.
Workers' comp bills of interest that passed
- HB 3003 (SAIF bill) | Allows a self-insured employer, who purchases workers' comp insurance that includes tail coverage for claims incurred while self-insured, to request approval from DCBS for the return of its deposit. If you have a self-insured who may be interested in working with SAIF and transferring tail coverage as well, please start the submission process early as it can take some time to review the claims.
- SB 507/HB 2418 | Creates a rebuttable presumption that stress and PTSD diagnosis of law enforcement, firefighters, corrections officers, youth authority officers, and 911 dispatchers were caused by work.
- HB 2788 | Restores the requirement that the Workers Benefit Fund (WBF) have a 12-month reserve.
- HB 5011 | The DCBS budget includes funds to begin planning to modernize the Workers' Comp Division computer system.
- HB 2087 | Increases the aggregate fine limit for insurer violations from $40,000 a year to $180,000 annually, keeping a $2,000 per-violation cap.
Bills that failed
- HB 3022 | Would have made major changes to the 1990 workers' comp reforms, including eliminating consideration of many pre-existing conditions; changes were ultimately limited to diagnostics and ceases denials. MLAC has scheduled further discussion of the issues, including those from a recent Oregon Supreme Court decision, at a subcommittee meeting in September.
- HB 2413 | Would have greatly expanded eligibility to vocational assistance benefits.
- HB 2424 | Would have bypassed the MCO process and allowed the referral by an injured worker attending physician to a nonmember chiropractor.
The next regular session of the legislature will begin on February 1, 2020. This will be a "short" session, limited to 35 days.