On October 24, 2018, Governor Fox signed into law an amendment to the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act which re-established the use of Impairment Rating Evaluations (IREs) in Pennsylvania. The new provision requires IREs to be performed under the 6th Edition of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. The threshold for presumption of total disability is now 35 percent, as opposed to 50 percent, which was the threshold under the law that was declared unconstitutional by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Protz v. WCAB, 161 A.3d 827 (2017). Under the new law, those collecting workers‘ compensation benefits may be required to undergo an IRE after they have collected benefits for 104 weeks. If upon examination by a physician authorized to perform such an an evaluation the physician determines that the employee is less than 35% disabled under AMA guidelines, the employee may receive no more than 500 weeks of additional wage loss benefits. An employee may challenge the determination but must prove either that they had not reached maximum medical improvement at the time of the IRE or that their impairment exceeds 35% under AMA guidelines. The law also increased the burial expense benefit to $7,000.
The Bureau of Workers' Compensation and the Department of Labor industry are working on doing everything necessary to effectuate the new law.