NC Adopts Workers Comp Reforms

August 25, 2005 ( - North Carolina has adopted a new workers' compensation law that eases employers' ability to access employees' private medical records.

Business Insurance reports that a 1996 court ruling restricting employers’ access to employee medical records and forcing them to access the information through depositions hindered employers’ return-to-work and claims management practices, according to the American Insurance Association.

The new reform, H.B. 99, partially reverses that court ruling.

NC’s newly adopted reform also makes it harder for employees to collect benefits for injuries from accidents caused while they were under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

In a Q&A concerning the Medicare Part D drug subsidy issued this week, the Office of Civil Rights of the US Department of Health and Human Services said plan sponsors can amend their plan documents to allow access of employees’ protected health information for plan administrative purposes (See  HHS: PSs Can Access Employee Health Data Despite HIPAA ).

An American Insurance Association news release says reforms in the bill also include expediting resolution and payment of claims for injured workers while allowing insurers a reasonable and appropriate period of time to investigate more complex claims and empowering the Industrial Commission to deal with fraud and make sure the injured party can not benefit from the unlawful conduct.

Some unresolved issues were not included in the bill but were assigned to a legislative study committee, according to the American Insurance Association.  These issues concern the appropriate length and level of benefit payments, whether to impose a lifetime cap on benefits, and allowing employers to halt payments if the worker refused to accept a position considered “suitable employement.”