Employers will be facing significantly less financial and legal liability as a result of Senate Bill 1, which Gov. Nixon signed into law today. At the same time, hundreds of injured workers will now receive the benefits they are due.
“This was critical legislation, not just from a financial standpoint but also from a standpoint of system integrity,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO. “It shouldn’t have taken as long as it did to make these changes, but the Trial Bar fought us every step of the way. Working through the General Assembly, employers have taken these issues out of the hands of activist courts and the Trial Bar, and we are taking responsible measures to fix them.”
SB 1 contains provisions to address the Second Injury Fund and provide benefits for employers.
• Most important, SB 1 limits the types of claims that can be run through the Second Injury Fund. The fund had been greatly expanded over the last decade to cover claims that should not have been part of the fund, the main reason the fund became insolvent in the first place. The bill removes all permanent partial disability from SIF, which is 80 percent of all SIF claims
• The bill provides a long-term plan to pay off the $1 billion in liability that currently exists within the system. Currently the Second Injury Fund is $32 million in the red, with more than 1,200 people with outstanding claims. However, more than 30,000 claims are pending adjudication, saddling Missouri employers with great financial liability.
• SB 1 also reduces the interest rate from 9 percent to 5 percent that employers are currently paying on outstanding claims. This will save employers millions of dollars annually.
Years of impasse on this issue has resulted in claimants taking their case to court in order to secure benefits they have been awarded under the law.
In addition, the compromise brings all occupational diseases back under the workers’ compensation system.
• Nine toxic exposure conditions will be eligible for enhanced remedy of up to $150,000 and guaranteed death benefits.
• The toxic exposure condition of mesothelioma will be eligible for $500,000 in enhanced remedy.
• An employer can opt to have coverage for toxic exposure under work comp policy, to pay for remedy out of a pool to be administered by the Department of Labor, or address any mesothelioma cases in circuit court.
“The Missouri Chamber applauds House and Senate leadership for their work on the issue. Sen. Scott Rupp and Rep. Todd Richardson were strong legislative leaders who worked tirelessly to advance the bill,” said Mehan. “The Missouri Chamber is grateful for the governor’s signature that will allow positive steps toward bringing solvency back to the Second Injury Fund and helping workers get the benefits due them.”
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.mochamber.com) was founded in 1923 and is the largest business association in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians.