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Oppose Senate Bill 112, which will have disastrous consequences to Alaskan Injured Workers

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When workers become injured, they do not realize that it is an adversarial process.  They blindly trust that their employer carries insurance that will take care of them during the process of recovery.  The injured worker is sometimes dealing with life changing injuries, yet they are not allowed to have an attorney until their claim has been denied.  Many states are recognizing the unfair treatment of injured workers and have put into effect laws designed to protect them.  Alaska is sadly lacking.  Instead of trying to fix this, Senator Giessel has introduced SB112 which will have disastrous effects on injured workers in years to come.  If passed, workers will not be able to obtain treatment for their injuries from doctors of their choosing.  Under the proposed bill, the employer can select the treating doctor.  The proposed law seeks to cut off medical treatment in almost all cases two years after an injury.  It prevents the doctor from recommending treatment based on their judgement , instead requiring the doctor to use an industry created treatment guideline.  Pursuant to the proposed law, the opinions of insurance doctors will be more important than the treating doctor in determining the treatment and benefits a worker will receive.  These doctors are not held to the same fee schedule as treating doctors, and as such can charge as much as they want for an examination.  Many of them are aging and have not been in practice sometimes for decades. 

As it is written now, the law states that a previous condition that is exacerbated, accelerated, or combined with by the work injury would be covered.  The new bill proposes to make a worker prove their injury, not by a preponderance of the evidence, but by clear and convincing evidence which is tantamount to the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.  With this new standard, an insurance doctor's opinions are almost impossible to overcome.  There is no law in place that makes the insurance company hand over every medical document for the claimant, so they are able to pick and choose the records to give to their "experts" to gain more favorable opinions. If you are a woman who has been a victim of a sexual assault, even if the assault was 40 years ago, I have seen them provide their experts with one line from one counseling note and use that to deny benefits for legitimate injuries.  When a worker is denied, many times the costs are shifted to Medicaid and Medicare, or the worker is forced to go without treatment.  This bill is giving the insurance company even more power. 

Chiropractic care will likely be unavailable.  Temporary total disability is limited to no more than 104 weeks.  Permanent total disability ends when the worker receives social security or any other form of retirement benefit.  This is unfair because if a worker is disabled when they are young, they will not have much of a retirement to draw on. 

SB112 seeks to end vocational rehabilitation and will replace it with a voucher system that won't cover living expenses while the claimant is being retrained. 

This bill discriminates against older workers.  The bill requires that the injury be the major cause of any disability.  Pain is not considered a disability. 

Co-workers, friends, and family members will not be allowed to testify on behalf of the injured worker regarding the worker's ability to work, physical limitations, the need for treatment, and whether the injury is work related.  This is a problem because they have intimate knowledge of how the worker was before the accident.  In the case of a head injury, they know how the person functioned before and can be crucial in establishing a baseline. 

Immediately after an injury, the insurance company obtains representation, yet the worker is unable to find attorneys to represent them.  Even now there are limited attorneys practicing workers compensation law in Alaska. Under the proposed law, attorneys will be unable to be paid for their actual hourly fees and costs and unlike current law, the employer will not have to pay the workers attorney fees for having been wrongfully denied compensation benefits. 

The insurance companies and the Chamber of Commerce are going to be able to get massive support for this bill.  Without workers willing to stand up and fight this, this horrendous bill will likely become law.  Please share this with everyone you know.  Tell your representatives that you want them to take a stand for injured workers.     

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