Michigan’s Workers’ Compensation Law is Changing How Injuries are Handled

The 2011 changes in Michigan’s workers’ compensation law approved by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder began to take hold in 2012.  These updates to the law were intended to bring clarity to the statute in several areas and attract and keep business in Michigan.  Let’s highlight just four substantial revisions here.

  1. Time extended for directing injured employee’s medical care: One significant change allows employers to direct the medical care of an injured employee during the first 28 days of an injury or disease.  Previously, the employer had 10 days to direct the care.  Directing post-injury care is vital to providing quality treatment and keeping costs reasonable.  Whenever possible, occupational medical facilities are the best choice for care and treatment of employees.  These facilities understand the dynamics of a work-related disability and prompt recovery.The key to putting the treatment on solid footing is ensuring a positive experience for the employee while offering needed treatment after an injury whether your employee receives a couple of stitches or strains a shoulder.  Although they provide vital medical care, emergency rooms, urgent care clinics and family physicians are not as adept in handling worker injuries and should not be a first choice unless the severity of the injury warrants it or no other alternative is available.
  2. Pre-existing medical condition definition clarified: Prior to the 2011 changes, a pre-existing medical condition often extended the duration of a worker’s compensation claim as it was difficult to distinguish between a work-related disability and the pre-existing condition itself.  A second change in the statutory language clarifies that a pre-existing condition is not payable under workers’ compensation unless there has been a change in the pathology of the pre-existing condition caused by a work injury.
  3. Such conditions must “significantly change” or are not covered: A degenerative arthritis located in the back area can be a pre-existing condition.  When a worker having degenerative arthritis sustains a back injury, that condition can complicate and extend treatment and recovery, keeping an employee off the job if not addressed early.  A third change in the statutory language specifies that degenerative arthritis is part of the aging process and would be considered work related if the injury aggravates or accelerates the degenerative arthritis in a significant manner. If the pre-existing condition has not changed in a significant manner, it is not workers’ comp.  Physicians should be asked more often and more proactively to medically distinguish between the “pre existing condition” and the worker’s injury.  This change is expected to limit the duration of many claims, particularly as our population ages.
  4. Mental disability language strengthened:  A fourth change brings further clarity and stability to the overall system regarding mental disabilities.  These are work related if they arise out of actual events of employment, not unfounded perceptions.  The new law states that the “the employee’s perception of actual events” must be “reasonably grounded in fact or reality.”

These are but a few of the statutory changes intended to modernize and provide greater efficiency in the workers’ compensation system in Michigan.  While the Dec.19, 2011 law signed by Gov. Snyder is barely one year old, the system is already experiencing greater discipline and proactive management when it comes to claims handling.

At BCN Services, we manage day-to-day items such as Workers’ Compensation claims and offer employers up-to-date advice about changes in the law.  Call us toll-free at 1-800-891-9911 or in southeast Michigan at 1-734-994-4100 or contact us here.  Let BCN handle that!

PatrickBoeheim_6705

Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager

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