Changes Likely Coming to Workers' Comp After Midterm Election Results


On Tuesday, elections were held across the country and we saw record turnout of voters for a midterm election.  While news has paid significant attention to the results of the U.S. House and Senate races across the country, the results of state elections will have a big impact on the 2019 legislative session and the potential to dramatically impact workers’ compensation in some states. 

While some races have yet to be called, like the contentious Georgia Governor’s race, the results are in for many states:

Illinois: Much of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s term was defined by his fighting with House Speaker, Michael Madigan (D) who thwarted much of the Governor’s agenda, including workers’ compensation reform and a state budget for over two years. 

The fighting and inability to move much legislation cost Rauner his governorship as he was defeated by J.B. Pritzker.  With Democrats controlling both state houses and the Governor’s mansion, the opportunity to pass substantial legislation for the first time in years is finally upon Illinois.  With the state having the highest workers’ comp rates in the Midwest, expect Democrats to eye some labor-friendly workers’ comp reforms in the near future.

Kansas: The Governor’s race was tight throughout the election season, but Democrat Laura Kelly was able to pull out the victory on Tuesday.  Prior to the elections, Kelly had made comments lending her support for the use of the fourth edition of the AMA guidelines for workers’ compensation.

Kelly believes that the sixth edition, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Kansas Court of Appeals back in June, was too restrictive and does not provide adequate benefits for injured workers.  With no movement on the issue since the court ruling, a new Governor might help Kansas address the issue in 2019.

Maryland: While the landscape didn’t change much, Governor Larry Hogan easily won reelection and Democrats maintained their veto proof majority in both houses, there were still races to watch, like Senator Kathy Klausmeir.  Klausmeir serves as the Senate Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Committee and has held the chairmanship through significant workers’ comp legislative battles in Maryland.  In the 2018 campaign she faces a significant challenge from her Republican opponent but was able to pull out the victory last night.

Oklahoma: The Republican Governor candidate, Kevin Stitt, pulled out the victory against his Democratic opponent, Drew Edmondson, keeping Republican control of the Governor’s mansion for another term.  Republicans also held on to their majorities in both state houses, but the impact of a tumultuous primary season, that saw a huge flip from conservative republicans to more moderate republican candidates, made way for brand new legislators in 2019. 

Oklahoma has been eyeing substantial workers’ comp reforms over the last few years after much of their earlier reform efforts have been thrown out by the courts, but with new legislators in place, the substance and success of those reforms is up in the air.

Texas: Last night’s results weren’t too surprising.  Governor Greg Abbott won reelection, and Republicans still maintain significant control of both houses.  However, campaign developments from earlier in the year will have a big impact on the legislature and workers’ compensation.  Not only do we have a new insurance commissioner, but House Speaker, Joe Straus, announced earlier this year he was not seeking reelection, opening the door for a new speaker in 2019. 

Additionally, back in the primaries, Rene Oliveira, Chairman of the Business and Industries Committee who oversees workers’ comp legislation, lost his reelection bid, leaving the chairmanship position open until a new speaker is named.

Related: 5 Misconceptions in Workers' Comp

With many significant changes announced this midterm electronic, we may be in store for workers’ comp changes in 2019. As always, we’ll keep you up to date on important news happening within the workers’ comp and health care community.

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