North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system wins again. This time, saving employers more than $125 million. Earlier this month, the North Carolina Supreme Court denied a motion to review a ruling made late last year by the state Court of Appeals in favor of the North Carolina Industrial Commission. You may recall the Court of Appeals’ unanimous ruling solidified that the Industrial Commission’s hospital and medical fee schedule applies to ambulatory surgical centers. The state Supreme Court’s decision is a major victory in workers’ compensation reform, upholding the lower court’s ruling and saving job creators millions of dollars that they could have been forced to pay if the fee schedule did not apply.
Workers’ compensation reform was first achieved in 2011, restoring balance in a no-fault system, ensuring workers received timely access to benefits and reducing costs for employers. Following the passage of the first set of reforms, it was clear there was still more work to do to bring North Carolina’s costs into alignment with neighboring states. After years of negotiation, a Medicare fee schedule rule was agreed upon in 2014 and embraced by North Carolina’s business community, the North Carolina Hospital Association, the North Carolina Medical Society, workers’ compensation insurance companies, the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys. The North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) then adopted the fee schedule for physicians and hospitals. Despite the vast support for the fee schedule, ambulatory surgical centers challenged the commission’s ability to apply the rule to their facilities.
Fast forward through a long litigious process and here we are. From the start, the NC Chamber Legal Institute has been heavily engaged in the proceedings, which included signing onto an amicus brief and public comment. We are pleased with the Court’s decision and it is our hope that we can continue moving forward under the current fee schedule. Year after year, these reforms have reduced workers’ compensation costs and this year is no different with an expected 12.5% drop. There’s no question that these reforms have done exactly what they were intended to do and we will continue doing everything we can to ensure they remain in place.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs