NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Changes to Tennessee's workers compensation laws took another step
forward on Wednesday. Next week, a House committee will consider
revamping a system many say is inefficient and difficult to navigate.
That's why Representative Kevin Brooks (D-Cleveland) has proposed some big changes. "It helps both sides. It creates avenues for the employers to contact physicians," Brooks explained. "It creates avenues for employees to have benefits for more weeks."
Another change would allow a panel, appointed by Governor Haslam, to decide workers' compensation cases, removing them from the court system and protecting companies from burdensome litigation.
"We think that a big way to reduce costs is to make sure that people have good care," Abbie Hudgens, Department of Labor Workers' Compensation Administrator, said. "In the end good medical care is probably the least expensive medical care."
"For once I'd like to see this General Assembly do something for employees, do something for citizens (other than) take from them and gut them," Rep. Joe Towns Jr. (D-Memphis) said to a crowd of opponents.
Opponents say the bill takes unfair advantage of workers by trying to reduce payouts and minimize care all in an effort to help companies save money.
"You try to be fair. You're not greedy," said Mark Scarlett, who lost his hand in a work injury. "Nothing can replace what you've lost but they always want to start at the bottom and low ball you, and they're really not wanting to give you a whole lot to start with."
Two years after his injury, Scarlett and his attorney continue to fight as the system determines how much his injury is worth.
The House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee sent the bill to the full committee. Tuesday, March 12th, at 10am the full committee will hear from those on both sides of the issue.