Iowa Workers Compensation Law
Property Casualty

Workers’ Compensation Law: Out with the Old, In with the New?

Kari Cooling
Kari Cooling
Sr. Vice President and Managing Director, Brokerage Services - Iowa

We have some big news making headlines in the state of Iowa…all in the name of workers’ compensation. What’s happening? Well, lawmakers are looking to make some significant changes to the state’s workers’ compensation law this session…and the proposed changes could toss the decades-old legislation into the trash.

Quick upfront side note…while I know this particular information is geared more toward businesses in Iowa, this is an incredibly important topic…not just for Iowa employers, but employers nationwide. With workers’ compensation premium being the highest premium for insureds, all employers should be paying attention to this reform and what happens next. Even though some of Iowa’s proposed changes are in line with other states, some are new…and it may be in everyone’s best interest to know what “could” be on the horizon if other legislatures decide to follow suit. Keep in mind, with the Trump administration, we might see more states propose more “extreme” reforms to benefit employers as a whole. This may be just the beginning of a domino effect. Only time will tell.

OK…back to the post. At this point, the proposed updates are just that “proposed.” But, as you’ve heard us say many times, at Holmes Murphy, we’re constantly “Thinking Ahead.” As a result, if you’re one of our Iowa clients, I want to help prepare you on the possible changes to the reform and what this could mean for you while strategizing for your 2017 workers’ compensation programs.

Some highlights of the possible changes are as follows:

  • The “Intoxication Defense” will place the burden on the employee who tests positive.
  • The “Permanent Disability” commencement date will be changed for the date when the employee reaches maximum medical improvement.
  • Shoulders will be placed on the schedule as scheduled member injuries.
  • “Body as a whole” injuries will be terminated at the age of 67. Important note on this one: It appears Iowa is trying to “stay ahead of the curve” with these injuries being terminated at age 67 and potentially forfeiting their benefits for refusing to attend medical visits. Most other state jurisdictions are in line with Iowa’s current law of merely suspending them until they return to the medical doctor. We’ll need to keep an eye out, as more states may try and enact the cap at age 67.
  • If an employee refuses to attend scheduled physician’s appointments, their future benefits could be forfeited.
  • Attorneys can only take a fee for the benefits they secured for the injured worker.
  • Only those who live in Iowa will have the ability to receive benefits under the workers’ compensation law.
  • Employees who are productively working will not be able to be adjudicated to permanent or total disability.
  • The employee’s work must have been greater than 50 percent of the reason for the cause of the injury for workers’ compensation benefits to apply.
  • An injured worker cannot recover under both permanent partial disability and permanent total disability benefits.
  • Employers that hire employees with pre-existing disabilities are only required to pay for injuries incurred while working for employer.
  • If the injured worker receives overpayment, the employer may deduct the overpayment from future payments.

Whew. It’s a lot…I know. Again, these are just proposed at this point in time. We are watching this very closely and will let you know what unfolds during the Iowa legislative session. Until that time, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions. We look forward to helping you navigate these possible changes and what they will mean for your organization!

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