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March 25, 2004     (512) 463-0300

WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMITTEE EXAMINES
PROBLEMS WITH HEALTH CARE

High medical costs and questionable care are two of the major issues facing the Senate Select Interim Committee on Workers' Compensation which met today, March 25, 2004, at the Texas Capitol. Today's specific issues included surveying the costs and benefits of other cost-containment systems and comparing the Texas workers' compensation system to other states.

Amy Lee, team-leader for the workers' comp research group at the Texas Department of Insurance and D.C. Campbell, a primary researcher on the project spoke about their research findings on the quality of care and medical costs. Lee said the average medical cost per claim went up by more than 20 percent between 1999 and 2001. Lee confirmed that the rise was due to increased usage of the program, not rising medical costs.

In a 2002 survey, Lee's group found that a high percentage of workers were satisfied with their care but that a fifth of those injured questioned the quality of their care and a fourth said their doctor was more concerned with pleasing the employer, rather than properly treating their injuries. In addition, injured Texans returned to work more slowly than those in other states.

Other witnesses today included Bob Shipe, Director of Medical Review for the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission, Margaret Lazaretti, Deputy Commissioner of the Texas Department of Insurance's HMO Division and representatives from various insurance companies.

The Senate Select Interim Committee on Workers' Compensation has six different charges from the Lieutenant Governor, all of which concern reform of today's compensation system. The committee is due to submit a report to the Texas Legislature by December 1, which will be used as a basis for new legislation when lawmakers meet this coming January.

The committee is chaired by Senator Todd Staples. Members include Senators John Carona, Robert Duncan, Craig Estes, Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, Kyle Janek, Frank Madla, Jane Nelson and Royce West. The committee adjourned subject to call of the chair with its next meeting scheduled for April.

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