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Feb 3, 2015 4:32 PM

Kevin Landrigan: NH GOP claims to have solution to workers' comp costs problem


CONCORD - House and Senate Republican leaders say they have come up with the first, big step to deal with a vexing issue for business owners - the high cost of on-the-job injury insurance.

The answer: Making medical providers adhere to a fee schedule as exists in 44 other states across the country.

A packed turnout from supporters and opponents forced a House committee to move the hearing from the Legislative Office Building to the spacious, House chamber known as Representatives Hall.

House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan, R-Brookline, said it's not a silver bullet but would help control the spiral of costs for surgeries and other procedures that can be double and triple the cost for the same medicine given to someone with traditional health care.

Across all injuries, the price shock is stunning. Compared to health care, surgeries are 156 percent more, to ambulatory surgical centers it's 263 percent higher and radiology is up 107% over the standard rate.

"This basically gives us the first step to as it relates to controlling the medical costs which is about 75 percent of the workers comp costs,'' Flanagan said.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, is also a big, powerful proponent of this change.

But Pamela Bronson with Access Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics said many states such as Vermont with fee schedules also have high insurance rates.

"We know fee schedules reduce options for care for injured workers delaying their getting the right care faster which can increase their time away from work,'' Bronson said.

Last spring, Gov. Maggie Hassan named a commission made up of all the stakeholders to recommend a reform package that could help.

But the panel could not come to a deal on the big ticket items and instead could only recommend creation of a state-of-the-art database on claims and a medical pharmacy benefit package.

A scathing minority report called for more.

"The data is clear and overwhelming: New Hampshire workers compensation medical costs are out of line with the region and the nation,'' the minority report said.


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