FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky lawmakers are closing in on making the biggest changes to the workers’ compensation system in decades after the Senate passed the measure on Thursday.
The legislation — backed by business groups but opposed by organized labor groups — will return to the House, which will consider changes made by senators. If the House accepts the revised version, it will go to Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.
A key part of the bill would put time limits on benefits for some injured workers.
The proposed 15-year benefit cap from the date of injury would apply to certain workers filing claims for permanent, partial disability because of on-the-job injuries.
Many of those workers eventually return to the labor force. Currently, they are entitled to medical benefits for the duration of the disability.
The bill would allow those injured workers to make recertification filings that, if approved, would let them continue receiving medical benefits.
The measure, which passed 23-14, had a powerful advocate during Thursday’s debate — Senate President Robert Stivers. The Manchester Republican said the bill would promote a “very fair process.”
“It does things for … the injured worker and it gives certainty to the industry for what their costs and liabilities would be,” he said.
Minority Floor Leader Ray Jones denounced the bill as “anti-worker.”
The Pikeville Democrat said the recertification process would put the burden on injured workers to show they should continue receiving medical benefits.
The bill’s opponents say those injuries often can result in nagging medical problems lasting a lifetime. They also say there’s no justification for the changes because workers’ compensation insurance premiums paid by Kentucky employers have been dropping.
“I can’t see the need for such a sweeping overhaul of the workers’ compensation law,” said Democratic Sen. Morgan McGarvey of Louisville.
He said the bill seeks to limit costs for businesses at the expense of workers.
Supporters have said the changes would not apply to people now receiving workers’ comp benefits. The measure would affect future cases stemming from workplace injuries.
Also under the bill, the most severely injured workers — considered permanently, totally disabled — would still receive lifetime medical benefits, supporters said.
The legislation is House Bill 2.