Montana Lawmakers Try to Solve Workers’ Comp Problem

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Montana lawmakers on a committee aimed at overhauling the state’s workers’ compensation program have voted to continue talking with health care providers to reach an agreement before the Legislature meets in January.

The Economic Affairs Interim Committee on Friday made the move after hearing from doctors across the state who said the bill as currently drafted will cost doctors too much money.

The committee last month approved the plan lawmakers said would increase benefits for workers while lowering costs for Montana businesses.

The Great Falls Tribune reports that doctors said the plan passes the costs onto doctors, and that will cause many doctors to decline to treat workers’ compensation patients.

Doctors say part of the problem is they are forced to spend too much time filling out forms for worker compensation patients rather than treating patients.

“If I have three Medicare patients and one workers’ comp patient, it’s more cost-effective to treat those three Medicare patients than it is to treat that one workers’ comp patient,” said Dr. Paul Gorsuch, a Great Falls neurosurgeon.

Democrat Sen. Jim Keane of Butte said lawmakers have been trying to fix the state’s workers’ compensation program for more than three years and the work should not be abandoned.

“If this committee bill passes forward, you are seeing a preview of the fight that will take place when the Legislature meets in January,” said Keane, chairman of the committee.