Workers to receive more aid from WSINearly 9 percent of injured North Dakotans who asked Workforce Safety and Insurance to review their workers’ compensation cases are getting additional aid, a WSI official said Thursday. Considering that, legislators are interested in the agency doing such reviews periodically.
By: By Janell Cole, N.D. Capitol Bureau, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK— Nearly 9 percent of injured North Dakotans who asked Workforce Safety and Insurance to review their workers’ compensation cases are getting additional aid, a WSI official said Thursday.
Considering that, legislators are interested in the agency doing such reviews periodically.
Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, requested the large-scale review 10 months ago, saying he wanted to know if allegations were true that workers had been unfairly denied benefits — as has been frequently alleged by agency critics.
More than 400 injured workers whose cases had been closed responded to the invitation to apply for the review, and WSI attorney Anne Green told the Legislature’s Workers Compensation Review Committee that 295 cases have been examined.
The remaining 131 are still being done, Green said, and it’s not known when the agency will finish. Workers had until June 30 to apply for the reviews.
Keiser called the changes made in nearly 9 percent of the cases “significant” and that workers whose outcomes were changed are probably satisfied and feeling “vindicated.”
Green said 26 of the 295 completed reviews resulted in modification of benefits in the workers’ favor, including several outright reversals. In some cases, WSI agreed to pay more of the workers’ medical expenses. They also re-viewed cases to see if they should be considered again for one-time cash payouts known as permanent partial impairment awards.
In many cases where changes were made, it was the result of new medical information being discovered, Green said.
In an earlier progress report, another WSI attorney, Tim Wahlin had told the WSI board in May that a few reversals in favor of workers had involved tens of thousands of dollars in retroactive benefits.
Green said the examination by an internal committee at WSI has shown that claims analysts’ and adjusters’ decisions are “more of an art than a science.” Many original decisions were not necessarily mistakes but cases of “incredibly close calls,” she said.
WSI employees who originally handled a case are not involved in the new reviews of their cases.
Keiser and Sen. Nick Hacker, R-Grand Forks, asked if the agency may do similar reviews of old cases in the future.
WSI Interim CEO Bruce Furness said currently there’s no discussion of repeating the practice, but “I think there’s merit in doing this periodically,” especially considering that many cases involved the agency receiving new information that changed the outcome.
Cole works for Forum
Communications Co., which
owns The Jamestown Sun