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From Lansing:a column by State Rep. Brad Jacobsen

Workers compensation, helping to protect Michigan workers

November 20, 2013 - Three years ago my first bill to be signed into law reformed the Workers Compensation Act of 1929.

The law had been untouched for more than 25 years and was in desperate need of changes.

Many policies related to workers compensation were the result of court decisions that were never written into law.

These decisions left a great deal of uncertainty for employees and job providers.

Michigan's century old workers compensation laws were so far out of date that they didn't account for a woman being the breadwinner of her family.

If a wife was injured, she would not receive any additional benefits for having dependents, such as a husband or children.

As the law read at the time, if the husband was injured he would be eligible for extra benefits for having a wife or children.

Backwards and inconsistent were the only ways to describe some of the sections of the law.

There was a definite need to revise those sections to account for shifts in the makeup of our workforce.

These simple and clarifying changes to the law were expected to save businesses money, allow them to hire more employees, and make sure benefits were fair for all employees.

I am happy to report that, just three years after passing the bill, we have seen a reduction in the cost of insurance premiums by more than 20 percent.

This is a shining example of making Michigan better for business and is one of the reasons why we now have the sixth highest economic growth rate in the nation.

Premiums are already down more than 15 percent from 2011-12 and is predicted to fall another 7 percent in 2014.

These decreases in premium cost will not affect an employee's ability to get high quality care they deserve.

Unfortunately, a recent federal court decision has once again created uncertainty for Michigan employers.

Under current law, the carrier of a workers compensation insurance policy is obligated to provide each employee with an 'Insurer's Notice of an Issuance of Policy,' also known as a Form 400.

This form is what links the liability of an insurance claim from the business to the insurance company. However, the courts determined this was not the case, throwing thousands of insurance policies across the state into question.

More than 200,000 employers are covered by such insurance plans statewide. This decision would create chaos for employees, employers, and the state's ability to regulate policies.

I am currently working with my colleagues, staff, and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to craft legislation to resolve the issues with Form 400. Our goal is to fix the system fairly and make sure businesses and employees have a clear understanding of the regulations.

We need to preserve the integrity of Michigan's workers compensation system which continues to provide benefits and protection to employers and hard-working taxpayers.

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