Kentucky: House Bill 296 Looks to Cap Benefits for First Responders

13 Mar, 2017 Angela Underwood

                               

Frankfort, KY (WorkersCompensation.com) - While a legislator and lawyer disagree over Kentucky State House Bill 296, some first responders have expressed negative feelings about the proposed legislation.

Representing parts of both Boone and Kenton Counties, 69th District Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger) shared his opinion on the proposed workers' compensation legislation in a March 8 editorial on Cincinnati.com, specifically calling out local Fraternal Order of Police lodges he claims are disparaging the bill.

Speaking with WorkersCompensation.com, Rep. Koenig said he has had resistance from River City FOP, out of Louisville. "It is incredibly disappointing that FOP leaders have attempted to mislead Kentuckians on my support for these heroes," reads the editorial.

"Over the past several days, members of various chapters of the Fraternal Order of Police have criticized the long-overdue improvements to Kentucky’s workers’ compensation system that recently passed the Kentucky House of Representatives," Koenig writes of the bill that would cap medical benefits at 15 years for an on-the-job injury.

"House Bill 296 does not cap medical expenses for those who are unable to continue to work," according to Rep. Koenig, noting in his editorial, "for any organization, like the FOP, to say otherwise is irresponsible, and there are now people unduly worried about their futures."

When contacted regarding their position on the proposed legislation, a representative with the Cincinnati FOP Queen City Lodge No. 69 said all officials, especially the president, were unavailable for comment.

While Rep. Koenig said the information rumored by the FOP leaders is "false and misleading," Esquire Ched Jennings, principal attorney with Jennings Law Office, out of Louisville, KY., disagrees. "I am working against the bill," Jennings said, especially regarding the impact it would have on first responders. "The FOP and first responders are a good example of employees getting hurt and no longer having a job. Yes, they can go out and get another job and have a different career, but the medical benefits would stop 15 years later to the day of the injury. That is just not fair or right."

Jennings served on the 1986 Workers’ Compensation Task Force, as well as serving on another last year with Rep. Koenig for Bill 296. According to the lawyer, "I served on the task force with him last year and we did not reach any recommendations, we didn't reach any kind of consensus, we did not reach one vote except on the meeting minutes," he said, adding, "When this bill was first introduced in the house, it did nothing for injured workers. It was strictly to benefit insurance companies and the chamber, you could tell, it was very obvious."

Rep. Koenig said legislators who support the bill are attempting to "get rid of one big issue," of cost savings, which he contends comes from the end-of-lifetime medical benefits for partial disabilities. "The utilization after 15 years is extraordinarily small," Rep. Koenig said. "That is the thing that seems to be getting most people upset, but that is the big cost driver in the bill."

The legislator claims that after committee hearings "and concerns raised by Kentucky workers’ groups, I spent considerable time working with every interested party to find a consensus on the bill."

Not true, according to Jennings. “He will say he met with officials from the industry, but before that bill was filed, he met with no one from our side. I am talking about organized labor, trial attorneys and a group called the Kentucky Workers Association. We had no input with that bill and he went ahead and introduced it.” 

Lastly, while Rep. Koenig said in his editorial that “House Bill 296 increases the weekly wage for them [injured workers] from 100 percent of their salary to 110 percent of their salary – an element I personally included in the bill," Jennings said he and others wanted it to be higher, but Rep. Koenig is keeping it lower to benefit business and insurance agencies. "What is the purpose of the bill? The purpose of the bill is to make even more money for them," Jennings said.


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    • Angela Underwood

      Author Angela Underwood has worked as a reporter, feature writer and editor for more than a decade. Her prior roles as Municipal Beat Correspondent with Gannett and Public Information Officer for Toms Rivers government in New Jersey have given her experience on both sides of the political and media fences, making her passionate about policy and the public’s right-to-know.

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