NU Online News Service, July 20, 3:33 p.m. EDT

The National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) is opposing the proposed creation of a federal commission to examine state workers’ compensation laws, arguing that the recommendations of a similar commission in the past led to a crisis in the marketplace.

NCOIL unanimously adopted a “Resolution Opposing the Creation of a Federal Commission to Examine State Workers’ Compensation Laws” at its Summer Meeting in Philadelphia on June 12. The resolution states that NCOIL “reiterates its support for the state-based workers’ comp system and opposition to legislation that would broaden the federal role in that system.”

The resolution is in response to H.R. 635, introduced in January by U.S. Rep. Joseph Baca, D-Calif. That bill, NCOIL said in its resolution, “would authorize the establishment of a 14-member commission to examine state laws to determine if they provide an adequate, prompt and equitable system of compensation and medical care for injury or death arising from, out of and in the course of employment.”

The NCOIL resolution further states that a previous commission in 1971, with members appointed by President Richard Nixon, examined the workers’ comp system and made “broad recommendations the following year that included higher disability benefits, compulsory coverage, and unlimited medical care and rehabilitation benefits.”

However, NCOIL noted that the commission, while recommending these “significant cost drivers,” did not recommend any countervailing utilization controls. When states adopted the commission’s recommendations, NCOIL said, a financial crisis in the workers’ comp system resulted, and lasted from the late 1980s to the early 1990s.

NCOIL also said it believes Congress would be expected to approve any recommendations from the commission, “which would likely seek to impose rigid, one-size-fits-all federal benefit delivery rules that inherently will interfere with state benefit systems, increase system costs nationwide, and frustrate efforts of the states to contain costs.”

NCOIL’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance Committee Chair Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Ky., the sponsor of the resolution, said in a statement, “The current state-based workers’ [comp system] is flexible and responsive. It reacts to state-specific conditions, reflecting each state’s nature and cost of employment. Recommendations made by a federal commission would likely impose a one-size-fits-all system that would ignore individual state needs, interfere with state benefit systems, and increase, not control costs.”