Cuomo Pledge to Reform Workers' Comp Draws Some Support from Business; Labor Wary

Jan 13, 2017

Cuomo, shown here at an earlier visit to the Mariott Downtown Hotel, announced workers' comp reform as part of his State of the State initiatives.
Credit file photo

Lost in the attention of all the proposals in the State of the State address was one more idea for change particularly interesting to businesses.  Governor Cuomo pledged to reform worker’s compensation.  The news was welcomed by the state’s the Business Council of New York State, and its Director of Government Affairs Lev Ginsburg.

“I would say that we’re happy to see that the governor has highlighted worker’s comp as a problem and that the very high costs that are being faced by employers across the state are something that are on the governor’s radar.”

While expressing optimism that Cuomo is addressing reform, Ginsburg notes the system has ignored even some of its own past improvement efforts.  He says reforms in 2007 to shorten how long someone is paid for injuries are routinely ignored.  And that’s caused costs to continually rise.

“Since 2007, it has in fact increased every year.  This year in particular, the loss cost, which is the average that sets the basis for premium into 2017, went up 9.3%.  So baseline workers’ compensation went up 9.3% and, depending on the industry, significantly more than that.”

A cost-reduction for businesses was part of the 2013 budget.  But Ginsburg cites studies that show New York is now among the three most expensive states in the country.

“We simply can’t afford, especially in Upstate New York, to be such outliers in these costs.  It just does not entice manufacturing jobs in the state.  It just does not entice the kinds of jobs that families can rely on to really build a life in Upstate New York.”  

Labor groups oppose workers' comp changes that limit how long a worker can get payments. 

New York AFL-CIO president Mario Cilento, earlier this year, told Crain's business publication that limits on the length of payments are,

“an arbitrary cap on how long a worker can take to recuperate and reach maximum medical improvement, thus reducing benefits available to injured workers who are permanently partially disabled.”

Those limits could reduce medical improvement of someone injured on the job – but they are also the area of the greatest potential savings.