The Missouri House today passed Senate Bill 1 – a bill that would reform and provide additional funding for the Second Injury Fund and clarify occupational diseases are covered under the exclusive remedy provisions of Missouri’s Workers’ Compensation system.
The Second Injury Fund part of the bill contains language agreed upon by Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM) and a broad coalition of employer representative groups. The surcharge that employers pay to support the Fund would be temporarily increased in exchange for some much-needed reforms. For example, current law allows workers to “stack” work injuries and non-work injuries in a way that allows a worker to be more than 100% disabled and still able to work. This practice would no longer be allowed if the bill becomes law.
The bill would also lower the interest rate on outstanding claims that currently accrues at an unreasonably high rate of 9%. The new interest rate would be the greater of 5% or a market-based interest rate set by the state on tax delinquencies. The surcharge paid by employers would double for a period of seven years to help pay outstanding claims, then would return to its current level in 2021.
“These are reforms to the Second Injury Fund that Associated Industries of Missouri has suggested for many years,” said Ray McCarty, president/CEO of AIM. “This bill should fix some of the long-term financial problems with the Second Injury Fund and help pay down outstanding claims with short-term additional funding.”
The bill also clarifies occupational diseases are covered under the exclusive remedy provisions of the Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law. Some courts have opined that occupational diseases were inadvertently omitted from a 2005 revision to the workers’ compensation law. Other recent decisions have indicated that the diseases remain covered under the law.
Senate Bill 1 will clarify the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers’ Compensation law apply to occupational diseases. The bill would also require higher guaranteed payments to workers contracting ten diseases that result from exposure to toxic materials or chemicals in the workplace.