05.30.2019

Aftermath Of HB 1840: The “Protz” Fix

The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, the Commonwealth law that applies to workers’ compensation, was in a state of flux in the last year. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that a significant provision of the Act affecting Impairment Ratings Evaluations (“IRE”) was unconstitutional.

Known as the “Protz” fix, Governor Wolf signed HB 1840 into law on October 24, 2018, undoing this decision and re-establishing the use of American Medical Association Guides in determining impairment levels of injured Pennsylvania employees.

Intended as a cost-saving measure, IREs were used for more than two decades to measure a claimant’s level of impairment. The IRE result would determine whether the further payment of wage benefits would be limited or indefinite.

The Supreme Court’s decision to entirely dismantle the IRE process causing the Pennsylvania Compensation Rating Bureau (PCRB) to file a mid-year loss cost increase, which many estimated would increase workers’ compensation costs by several hundred million dollars. This led to the movement for HB 1840, also known as the “Protz” fix, by the Pennsylvania Assembly. (HB 1840 also raised the amount of maximum burial expenses for workplace fatalities from $3,000 to $7,000.)

HB 1840 restates the former provision of the Act held to be unconstitutional with a provision that is almost identical provision.

It substitutes “the sixth edition” for “most recent edition” after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the use of “most recent edition” amounted to an improper delegation of legislative authority to the AMA.

Under the former IRE process, an employer could request that a claimant who had received total disability benefits for 104 weeks undergo an IRE to evaluate the degree of permanent impairment caused by the work injury and determine if a claimant’s disability status had changed from total disability to partial disability.

Typically, if a state physician determined that the impairment rating was less than 50 percent, the injured employee’s status could be modified to partial disability and a worker could not receive benefits beyond 500 weeks. HB 1840 reinstates this process with the new language mentioned above but does decrease the 50 percent threshold to 35 percent.

For 113 years, Powell Law has litigated Pennsylvania workers compensation actions and obtained benefits for injured Pennsylvania workers in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. Consult an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney. Contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE!

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