NY State to Ban Nurses' Mandatory OT, Bolster Comp System

A ban on mandatory overtime for nurses and expanded health care benefits for 9/11 rescue workers are included in 26 priority bills passed by New York legislators as they wound down a session Wednesday and sent the measures to Gov. David Paterson, who has just completed his first 100 days in office. He had identified these 26 as priorities; they include a bill increasing penalties and regulation of employers' self-insured workers' compensation trusts, 12 of which have recently gone into default.

Zachary S. Weiss, who chairs the state Workers' Compensation Board, issued a statement Wednesday in which he said the comp bill "will help reinforce the self-insurance industry in New York by granting the board enhanced regulatory powers, while addressing our funding needs. I am also pleased it contains an additional $4 million for the occupational health clinics that help New York's injured workers get back on the job quickly and safely."

Citing board figures, National Underwriter P&C magazine's Daniel Hays reported that current unpaid liabilities for the defaulted trusts are about $363 million. The bill allows the board to borrow up to $52 million from the Fund for Uninsured Employers to pay claims against the defaulted trusts, he wrote in an article published on the magazine's Web site (www.propertyandcasualtyinsurancenews.com). Hays said WCB also shows that 10 additional trusts do not meet or exceed the board's 90 percent threshold for reserve levels.

"This legislation is critical to ensure that businesses are able to continue to provide benefits to injured workers without facing unexpected costs due to the failure of a handful of group self-insurers," Paterson said three days ago when he announced agreement on the legislation with state legislators. "These additional regulations and oversight, as well as the creation of a task force to examine these issues and recommend possible reforms, will have a positive long-term effect on the workers' compensation system and the ability of small businesses to provide coverage to their workers. I want to thank the Legislature for working together on this important piece of legislation."

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