Mending workers’ compensation system goal of new Kansas law

Stateline Midwest Vol. 20, No.5: May 2011

A compromise between business and labor groups in Kansas has led to the first overhaul of the state’s workers’ compensation system in nearly 20 years.

For workers disabled or killed on the job, benefit caps were increased to $155,000 and $300,000, respectively, The Topeka Capital-Journal reports.

At the same time, the new law seeks to prevent unwarranted claims by tightening reporting requirements. In addition, a worker must suffer a post-injury wage loss of at least 10 percent in order to receive permanent disability benefits. HB 2134 also eases the standard for when an employer can request drug and alcohol testing after an injury has occurred. Employers, too, are given assurances that they will not be responsible for paying the costs associated with the pre-existing conditions of injured workers.

Kansas already has relatively low workers’ compensation premium rates, according to a national study done in 2010 by the state of Oregon. Kansas’ rate that year was $1.55 per $100 in payroll, eighth lowest among the 50 states. Indiana ($1.16) and North Dakota ($1.02) had the lowest rates in the nation. In contrast, Illinois’ premium rate was $3.05, highest in the Midwest and third-highest in the nation.