Understanding Changes in Workers' Compensation in Texas

The way worker’s compensation is dealt with often varies from state to state. In Texas, there is a Worker’s Compensation program mandated by the state, where in companies provide coverage for employees who are injured on the work site, or risk facing a civil suit. Texas enacted its first workers compensation program in 1913. The first major changes to the program was in 1989 when the state passed a new workers compensation act that set up precise billing and reporting regulations for the doctors treating workers comp patients.

The 1989 changes created the Texas Workers' Compensation Insurance Fund to cut down on skyrocketing insurance rates, which became the number one supplier of workers compensation insurance in the state. The program was altered in 2001 and the name was changed to Texas Mutual Insurance Company, in addition to changes to doctor eligibility and benefits.

Under Texas law the only companies who are required to carry insurance are public employers and contractors, bus companies, transportation companies, propane and natural gas dealers and anyone who works with convicts. All other employers are permitted to choose if they wish to be covered.

Since the 2001 changes, House Bill (HB) 2600, doctors who wish to treat injured workers to register to be on the Approved Doctor List. There will also be special training and testing requirements set up by the Texas Workers Compensation Committee. There was also a panel put into place to review medical services and recommend sanctions. There are still looming questions on how worker’s comp issues will be dealt with, when the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”, is in full swing.

HB 2600 also made changes to the delivery of benefits to the injured. Under the new provisions employees with multiple jobs, who are injured at one, can receive benefits for wages lost at all their jobs, instead of just at the job they were working at the time of their accident. The new law allows the insurance provider to seek reimbursement for the other benefits being paid for the extra jobs. An article of the law also extended the possibility of receiving life time benefits to those who receive third degree burns which require skin grafts or cover the hands or face.

Since that time the only major change came at the beginning of 2013 when there was a change made to the way companies who choose not to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage report their non-coverage status to the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation, which is the agency responsible for regulating workers compensation. The new changes require an employer who does not carry insurance and who is not exempt to file a DWC Form-005 with the agency annually. Employers are also required to inform all employees that they do not carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage. A notice regarding this is supposed to be posted in the workplace in English, Spanish and any other common language. In addition, a notification of the non-insurance status is supposed to be given to every current employee as well as any new hires.