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IPERS Tries to Ease Concerns About Frozen Assets - Page 5 PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 06 March 2009 14:48

"Choice of Doctor" Bill Next Up in Iowa House

The Iowa House is expected to move quickly next week with action on the "choice of doctor" bill, which gives the injured employee rather than the employer his or her choice of doctor under state workers-compensation laws.

Rick Olson, chair of the House Labor Committee, confirmed Thursday night that a subcommittee on the bill will meet at about 1:30 p.m. on Monday, March 9. The House Labor Committee will meet Tuesday, recess for the public hearing from 7 to 9 p.m., then vote the bill out that night. The bill will be on the House floor Friday, he said.

"How many people out there really realize that if they fall on their driveway, they get to go to their own doctor, but if they fall on their employer's driveway, they have to go to a doctor of their employer's choosing?" asked Olson (D-Des Moines), an attorney. "I would hope that you would be able to go to a doctor that you've utilized in the past. He would have a better grasp on what your overall health is."

The "choice of doctor" bill is even more controversial than the one involving prevailing wage, which fell one vote short of passage last month, because it affects both public and private employers. Details of House File 5300 were unavailable online Thursday night, but lobbyist declarations on a Senate version of the bill are 10 pages long and include 16 for the bill, 198 against, and 66 undecided.

Those in favor of the bill are unions including AFSCME, Iowa State Police Association, Iowa Professional Fire Fighters, and the Iowa Federation of Labor. Those against it include the Iowa Chamber Alliance, Iowa Association of School Boards, and many business associations.

The choice-of-doctor bill cleared the Iowa Senate Labor & Business Relations Committee February 11 on a party-line 6-4 vote, but not until Democratic lawmakers got an earful on how much it would drive up costs in a struggling economy. Myron Linn of the Pella Corporation said it will increase the cost to do business in the state of Iowa by $120 million. He said workers-compensation insurance costs will increase by 14 percent and it would affect state government, cities, counties, and schools, possibly leading to teacher layoffs.

But Olson, who said he's worked on this issue for the past two years, said the House bill is different from the Senate's. He said under his proposal, which he calls a "hybrid," any increase in premiums would be statistically insignificant or minimal at best. A business study done three years ago proves it, he said.

"Figures being tossed around by the business community do not address this specific bill," Olson said. "This is not that. It's not an open choice of doctor. If you do not pre-designate who your doctor is, your employer still directs your medical care. If you've got a doctor, you get to use your doctor. If you don't, your employer gets to choose."

Iowa Democratic legislative leaders have had an unlucky recent history with labor bills. A bill that would have expanded the scope of collective bargaining received final legislative approval last year but was vetoed by Culver. Then last month, the prevailing-wage bill fell one vote short of passage after Representative McKinley Bailey (D-Webster City) changed his mind and voted "no."

A public hearing on the choice-of-doctor bill will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the House chamber. Those wishing to speak should call (515)281-5129.