In the last week, Gov. Scott Walker signed several major bills into law. On Wednesday, Feb. 21, in Milwaukee, the governor signed the Leading on Lead Act into law as Act 136. The Act allows water utilities to provide financial assistance to replace water laterals on private property containing lead. The law requires a municipal ordinance to be passed authorizing the financial assistance and Public Service Commission approval and provides various parameters for a grant or loan under the program. Act 136 will be a valuable tool for communities to utilize as part of the effort to eliminate lead pipes in Wisconsin. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that at least 176,000 lead service lines connect homes to the municipal water mains.
On Tuesday, Feb. 27, the governor signed his Wisconsin Health Care Stability Plan into law as Act 138. The governor announced this plan a month ago in his State of the State address in order to keep premiums down and create more choices for consumers in Wisconsin.
Under Act 138, Wisconsin will establish a $200 million state-based reinsurance program. Implementation of the program requires the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) to seek a 1332 waiver from the federal government. OCI has already begun working with a consultant to develop the waiver. It is expected the state will fund roughly 25 percent of the cost, with the federal government supporting the remaining 75 percent. For 2019 and depending on federal approval, OCI would set the payment parameters for the program so that the government would provide coinsurance payments for 50 to 80 percent of the cost for claims that are between $50,000 – $250,000.
In his press release, the governor stated that, “the reinsurance program is estimated to lower health care premiums for those in the individual market by 13 percent in 2019 and by 12 percent in 2020.”
Rounding out his week of major bill signings, on Feb. 28, the governor signed SB 781 into law as Act 139. Act 139 prohibits an injured employee from filing an action in tort against third parties regardless of whether the employee makes a claim for compensation under the Worker’s Compensation Act against his or her employer.
The law reverses a Wisconsin Court of Appeals, Dist. III decision (Ehr v. West Bend Mutual Ins. Co.) that significantly altered the Worker’s Compensation Act. The court ruled that the estate of a deceased employee could sue the employee’s temporary employer for an action in tort instead of filing a worker’s compensation claim under the Act. Specifically, the court ruled that the “exclusive remedy” provision under the Worker’s Compensation Act, “does not bar a temporary employee from bringing tort claims against his or her temporary employer.” The decision runs counter to how the Worker’s Compensation Act has been interpreted for many years. The exclusive remedy provision provides that an employee may only receive benefits from worker’s compensation for the injury. By ruling that the exclusive remedy did not apply in this case, the employee was able to sue his employer rather than submit a claim under worker’s compensation.