- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A governor’s commission aimed at addressing New Hampshire’s high workers’ compensation costs recommended no significant changes to state laws in a new report and instead suggested gathering more data and continuing to study the issue. A minority of the committee suggested more significant steps be taken immediately to overhaul workers’ compensation costs.

The 15-member commission released its report last week after three months of meetings at the request of Gov. Maggie Hassan, who noted that the state in 2012 was the ninth most expensive in the nation for workers’ compensation coverage. A report by the insurance department found that ambulatory surgery centers charge on average 263 percent more than normal rates for workers’ compensation surgeries and surgeons charge 156 percent more. Insurers are required by law to pay the full cost of workers’ compensation medical costs. The governor, business leaders and lawmakers all say these costs are too high.

“It is undeniably clear that New Hampshire workers’ compensation medical costs are out of line with those in the region and nation, and that those excessive costs are affecting businesses in the Granite State,” Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny wrote in the report.

The report recommended creating a database to better collect information on costs, implementing a pharmacy benefit management plan to give insurers more control over prescription drug use and continuing commission meetings through the summer. The first two require legislative approval.

But four commission members wrote that the state should implement a fee schedule, which would place caps on workers’ compensation charges. Legislative attempts at creating medical fee schedules failed in 2006 and 2012. Sevigny said fee schedules have shown to be effective in other states but must be created carefully. New Hampshire is one of seven states without a fee schedule for doctors.

Lawmakers have introduced at least six bills regarding workers’ compensation. House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan, a Republican, introduced a bill to create a fee schedule and increase the amount of money workers receive while they are out of work from 60 cents to 66 cents per dollar of their salary. State Sen. Gary Daniels supports a similar fee schedule approach, Flanagan said.

“I feel very comfortable with the Senate sponsor, Senator Daniels, and myself being able to come up with a workable piece of legislation that the governor hopefully will support,” Flanagan said.

Hassan’s office said she thinks the report provided constructive solutions but spokesman William Hinkle would not say which specific recommendations she supports.

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