Conn. considers workers' comp for first responders

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 19, 2013 at 9:43 am •  Published: January 19, 2013
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Osten said she expects the legislation will increase costs, which have not yet been determined.

The state Insurance Department recently allowed insurers to increase workers' comp premiums by as much as 7.1 percent. The amount may be different depending on market conditions, said John A. Mastropietro, chairman of the state Workers' Compensation Commission.

Among the factors driving the increase are a rising number of workplace injuries and higher medical costs.

Mastropietro said two high-profile workplace tragedies in Connecticut in 2010 contributed to high payouts. A power plant under construction in Middletown exploded after natural gas ignited, killing six workers and injuring 50 on Feb. 7, 2010. The following August, a worker at a Manchester beer distributor shot 10 people, eight of them fatally, and killed himself.

If the legislature extends workers' compensation coverage, it will restore access to benefits that lawmakers ended in 1993, Mastropietro said. Workers previously could be compensated for "a mental claim" not tied to a physical incident, he said. Some claims could have been due to unfair job ratings by supervisors that caused stress, leading to a workers' compensation claim, he said.

Changes in workers' compensation law sought to end that type of practice, Mastropietro said.

A business advocacy group says the 7.1 percent rise in workers' compensation is worrying. However, allowing first responders to claim workers' compensation would not have an impact on business costs because police, firefighters and others are public employees covered by municipal insurance, said Laura Cummings, a staff attorney at the Connecticut Business & Industry Association.

Legislative changes in the early 1990s that ended many claims for non-physical injuries or trauma "really helped business," she said.

Osten said she will push hard for the measure.

"This is something right to do for people who responded so heroically," she said.