Federal Government and Workers Comp: What to Know in 2017

Policy changes in workers' compensation can be fast and sudden or slow and painful. Every time the goalposts are moved, people have to learn to adapt. With the president's agenda making headlines everywhere, it's worth taking the time out to learn more about where this issue might head this year.

Minimum Standards and Health Care 

The Department of Labor called for minimum standards set for each state in terms of workers' compensation before the inaugeration, yet Trump seems like he won't be an advocate for this measure. When it comes to the Affordable Care Act (A.K.A. Obamacare), there's a lot of work ahead to develop a sustainable and worthwhile solution to handling workplace injuries no matter what happens.

Interestingly enough, it may be mental health that's at the top of the docket for 2017. It's one of the top reasons employees take short-term disability assistance, and this has prompted more companies to place value on and promote programs that support work-life balance and self-care. Some states don't allow for mental health as a reason to take disability, however that may change in the future as well. 

The Enforcers 

ADA, FMLA and OSHA have all seen more enforcement over the past few years, as rules solidify and expectations are set. Last year saw a rise of ADA suits, including issues related to service animals, allergies and the amount of noise in a workplace. The concept of how much time new parents should be able to take off from work will continue to be widely debated this year too. These types of issues tend to snowball until everyone is forced to confront them. Those who own their own business may want to start addressing these issues now before they're forced to change them later. 

Future Outlook

Prices continue to go up when it comes to medical care. This fact, along with changing rules about what does and does not constitute a claim, makes experts think that this year will only see an increase in rates. California, New York, Illinois and Florida all have workers' comp on their minds when it comes to legislation. Most are considering pricing reforms as old laws are evaluated under a microscope. There may also be changes when it comes to how marijuana is handled (in light of its growing legality) and how opioids are used (in light of its growing addiction base.) Some experts think this is driving us towards an advocacy-based model, where attorneys are used less and employees typically get back to work faster.

One thing is for certain: the more transparency on both sides of the equation, the more likely it will inspire positive and production interactions and resolutions.
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