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Date:June 25, 2009
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Louisiana Legislature Passes Workers’ Compensation Medical Guidelines Bill

BATON ROUGE - The Louisiana Legislature on Thursday approved a bill that establishes evidence-based medical treatment guidelines for workers’ compensation benefits, capping a groundbreaking collaborative effort by public and private entities.

Senate Bill 303, by Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, now goes to Gov. Bobby Jindal for signing.

The measure provides for the establishment of guidelines for medical care, services and treatment decisions for cases administered by the Office of Workers’ Compensation of the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

“This legislation greatly enhances access to proper care for those receiving workers’ compensation benefits, ensuring that injured workers get efficient and timely medical treatment,” said Tim Barfield, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission. “We believe the medical guidelines will help injured workers return more quickly to gainful employment, as well as reduce costs for employers and insurers.”

The measure is a result of an extensive effort by the workforce commission and the governor’s Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council, composed of representatives of business, labor, health care providers and workers’ compensation insurers. Barfield credited Chris Broadwater, director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation, for building consensus among stakeholders through the advisory panel. “All issues and concerns were brought to the table. Everyone got their voices heard, and the end result was effective legislation that will have a meaningful impact on getting injured workers the proper care they need to get back to work,” Barfield said.

A key component of the legislation establishes a medical advisory council appointed by the director of the state workers’ compensation office. The council -- made up of at least one orthopedic surgeon, neurosurgeon, neurologist, interventional pain management physician, family practice physician, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists and a representative from the Chiropractic Association of Louisiana -- will review current guidelines and provide recommendations for a medical treatment schedule to guide treatment for workplace illnesses and injuries. Members of the medical advisory council will be named by Aug. 15 and will serve two-year terms.

The measure also authorizes the workers’ compensation director to hire a medical director and consultants to assist the medical advisory council with the medical guidelines.

Rules governing the medical guidelines must be in place by Sept. 30, 2010.

Co-authors of the bill are Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi; Sen. Michael Walsworth, R-West Monroe; and Rep. Erich Ponti, R- Baton Rouge.

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