Legislature(2009 - 2010)HOUSE FINANCE 519
03/22/2010 01:30 PM House FINANCE
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HOUSE BILL NO. 346 "An Act establishing the Workers' Compensation Advisory Board; and providing for an effective date." 3:57:30 PM KONRAD JACKSON, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE KURT OLSON, SPONSOR, reported that the Medical Services Review Committee recommended that the Legislature establish a Worker's Compensation Advisory Council. The council would replace the Medical Services Review Committee. He noted the word "Board" was changed to "Council" in the Labor and Commerce Committee. TRENA HEIKES, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, noted that the council consists of four members each who represent organized labor and employers and three members who represent medical care providers. She remarked that Alaska is the only state that allows the medical providers to vote on such matters. Representative Austerman referred to the fiscal note, FN 1 (LWF) and asked if Medical Services Review Committee members needed to travel. Ms. Heikes responded that two of the members were from Ketchikan. The Department brought them up for monthly and bi-monthly meetings from May to November of last year. Representative Austerman queried Ms. Heikes about the $40 thousand expenditure for travel in the fiscal note. Ms. Heikes explained that it was for the Worker's Compensation Advisory Council members travel to meetings twice a year. She explained that currently the Medical Services Review Committee travel budget is approximately $10-12 thousand and part of the overall travel budget for the Division of Worker's Compensation. Representative Doogan asked if the $40 thousand was the total expenditure for the new Council. Ms. Heikes affirmed. She added that the Medical Services Review Committee will be abolished and their approximately $10-12 thousand travel budget will be rolled into the $40 thousand. Representative Austerman determined that the $40 thousand is an increase in expenditures. Ms. Heikes affirmed. Vice-Chair Thomas opined that the fishing and tourism industries were not specifically represented on the Council in the bill. He also felt the bill could allow duplicated union membership in the employer representation language. 4:05:08 PM Representative Kelly asked why there is more than one member from organized labor since the majority of Alaskan workers are non-union. Ms. Heikes responded that organized labor had the most experience with worker's compensation. She believed that the experienced members with an established base of knowledge would help the Council work efficiently. Representative Kelly maintained his concern that the council did not adequately represent the work force. Representative Fairclough noted that only voting members counted in the quorum. She wondered why the two members who represent insurers were not voting members. Ms. Heikes pointed out that although insurers have an interest in worker's compensation they are not typically given a vote. Worker's Compensation issues are between employers and employees. The medical providers complete the process. Representative Gara asked how the ad hoc committee compares to the Worker's Compensation Advisory Council. Ms. Heikes explained that the ad hoc committee is an ad hoc group of members from organized labor and the Worker's Compensation Committee of Alaska, an employer industry organization. The ad hoc Committee did not operate under an official statutory mandate and met behind closed doors. Council meetings will be on the record and invite public involvement. Representative Gara expressed concern with allowing medical providers to vote on all matters brought to the Council. He felt they should vote exclusively on medical care reimbursement rates, medical care provisions, and other applicable Medical Services Review Committee issues. He believed other council members could leverage their votes. Ms. Hiekes agreed that was a concern of industry and union members on the Medical Services Review Committee. The medical providers felt they were a major participant in the system. The treatment of work related injuries, workers recovery time, degree of permanent impairment, and vocational re-training involve medical opinion. They were given a voice by a bare majority. A vote provides incentive for the medical providers to come to the Council meetings. Representative Gara maintained his concern making medical providers voting members for issues that do not concern them. 4:13:49 PM Vice-Chair Thomas felt that Council members should be Alaska residents. HB 346 was HEARD and HELD in Committee for further consideration.