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What you need to know about the new Iowa workers’ comp law

As reported in the Insurance Journal earlier this year, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed a bill in April authorizing a new workers’ compensation law that went into effect on July 1, 2017. Under this law, Workers’ Compensation Fund payouts are predicted to go down by close to $1.8 million beginning in the 2018 budget year. Much of this decrease is expected to come from lower coverages for worker injuries tied to a pre-existing condition and from reduced benefits for injured workers, particularly those with shoulder injuries.

During the debates on the bill, many Republicans argued for the new law. Rep. Gary Carlson, R-Muscatine, claimed it “provides the intended predictability [the] Iowa workplace needs when dealing with workers with injuries and it clarifies the intent of the workers’ compensation system for the commission and courts to properly interpret and administer [the] workers’ compensation system.”

Many Democrats, on the other hand, argued against the new law. Rep. Monica Kurth, D-Scott, claimed it “guts the rights of Iowa workers injured on the job. It cuts payments to workers and it terminates the payments sooner.”

Gov. Branstad’s office released a statement saying the law rebalances the scales “to ensure employees are compensated fairly for being injured on the job, while ensuring that abuses are curtailed.”

The Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, has urged workers to report any work-related injury as soon as they believe they have one rather than waiting for up to 90 days to make the report as the law allows. The Federation encouraged meat packing plant workers to immediately report “aches or pains, or stiffness or weakness, in either of your shoulders” and to tell their employer “how your job is causing your symptoms.”

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