ATLANTA — Workers would have less time to see if a job-related accident or chemical exposure resulted in a disability so they could file a claim under legislation that a joint legislative panel considered Monday.
In an uncommon joint meeting of the House and Senate committees on insurance and labor, the lawmakers heard of a proposal to cut from five years down to two the length of time workers have to file a claim with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. The measure, House Bill 536, is sponsored by Rep. Chad Nimmer, one of the administration’s floor leaders, and cosponsored by Rep. Mark Hamilton, the chairman of the House committee.
“The intent of this bill is to shorten up the time frame that an employee can leave an employer and then come back and file a work-comp claim,” said Nimmer, R-Blackshear. “Once that claim is noted, that it goes through the process and to have enough time everybody wanted: the injured, the alleged injured employee, the care and treatment that he or she needs, and for the business owner, to get them in the system to make sure that their insurance company knows what’s going on with the employee.”
He compared it to Tennessee that has a 30-day deadline, which characterized as “extreme.”
The current five-year claim period is too long, Nimmer said, because insurance premiums are elevated to cover the extended risk of a claim, and those inflated premiums prevent employers from adding workers or giving pay raises.
Hamilton said the bill seeks to reduce manipulation.
“There is a concern that some people might use those dates to their advantage versus the good of the overall system,” said Hamilton, R-Cumming.
At the same time, the two committees also heard about two bills pending in both the House and Senate based on the idea that many job-related medical conditions take years to show up. The pair of bills essentially would make automatic awards to firefighters and police who file claims for cancer, AIDS, hepatitis and respiratory disease.
The committees took no legislative action on any bill. Instead, they referred all to a 110-member advisory council of employers, attorneys and insurers involved in workers compensation who were appointed years ago by the chairman of the compensation board. That council customarily reviews labor-related legislation before lawmakers vote on or amend legislation.