(c) 2016 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Affordable Care Act and Workers’ Compensation: The Known Unknowns

The future of the US workers’ compensation system is more difficult to comprehend almost on a daily basis, as the pendulum of change continues to swing to extremes and the ground becomes more fertile for political change. The recent decision in the State of Florida declaring that state's system unconstitutional ads to the continuing tension.

A few weeks ago, I attended Florida workers’ compensation attorney Gerald Rosenthal’s presentation at the national convention of the American Association for Justice  in Baltimore. He spoke at an academic seminar concerning the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ERISA and RICO. In his through evaluation he raised more problems than solutions, from a shortage of primary care physicians, opt-out systems, the evolution of wellness programs, ERISA subrogation rights and RICO claims.

During the discussion phase of the presentation, Mr. Rosenthal entertained a comment from the national guru on Social Security subrogation issues and Medicare Secondary Payer policy, Hank Patterson of North Carolina. The topic evolved into a discussion of using health care policies purchased as part of a workers’ compensation settlement to avoid subrogation involvement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid  Services (CMS). The jury is still out on that issue.

There are many known unknowns as to what effect the ACA will have the transformation of workers’ compensation in an era of major economic, political and  social adjustment in the United States.

As Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), author of “A Fighting Chance”,  dramatically noted in a panel discussion with Professor Thomas Piketty, author of “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” this week at the Old South Meeting House in Boston, the even growing economic dichotomy has had major impact on American workers’ as benefits continue to diminish.

Massive changes in the workplace even become more problematic when viewed in light of the changing landscape of medical delivery and restrictions made to health research. The known unknowns to the future of the nation’s century old workers’ compensation are now becoming more numerous almost on a daily basis.

Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson-Reuters).