The fundamental principal of the workers’ compensation scheme in New Hampshire, as in other states, is that employers must pay certain benefits to the employee, such as medical expenses, lost income, and vocational rehabilitation, in order to enjoy immunity from a lawsuit as a result of injuries sustained on the job. But the rising costs to employers of workers’ compensation benefits, especially the cost of medical care, is beginning to erode the benefit of the workers’ compensation scheme for New Hampshire employers. These rising costs have prompted the New Hampshire legislature to propose a bill, House Bill 255, which would amend New Hampshire’s workers’ compensation law, R.S.A. 281-A:1, et seq.
House Bill 255 (HB 255) has four main features:
First, HB 255 proposes that the employer, rather than the employee, select the health care provider from whom the employee will seek treatment, at least during the initial 10 days after an on-the-job injury.
Second, it calls for the substitution of less-expensive generic drugs for their brand name counterparts to be prescribed to injured workers.
Third, the bill seeks to set up a pilot program for a preferred provider network. This would involve three counties, and proposes that employers in these counties establish treatment networks that would exclusively provide medical treatment to an injured worker during the first 90 days after an injury. In other words, like managed care systems used in the health insurance industry, with a few exceptions, an injured employee would have to seek treatment from a doctor within the employer-created preferred provider network.
Fourth, HB 255 proposes a change to the law whereby an employer or an employer’s self-insurer could provide a pharmacy benefits management program permitting the use of, for example, benefits card and mail order drug delivery.
The intent of all four concepts is to try to curb the costs of workers’ compensation programs to New Hampshire employers. The House Labor Committee is expected to work on the bill over the next few months and report it out of committee sometime in late Fall 2013.