Wednesday, February 20 2013, 10:57 PM MST
Labor Dept Audit Offers Fixes, Contradictions
By Matt Gephardt
Produced by Michelle Poe
Edited by Aaron Colborn
Photography by Brian Morris
(KUTV) Changes are likely coming for Utah workers that are hurt on the job and file a claim for workers’ compensation. A legislative audit of the Labor Commission, which oversees workers’ compensation cases, was ordered after numerous complaints. Those complaints range from it taking too long to resolve cases to accusations that the independent doctors hired by the Labor Commission to review cases are biased in favor of insurance companies.
Utah Senator Wayne Harper called for the audit. Heather Gunnarson is the head-judge that hears Workers’ Compensation cases for the Labor Commission. Both say that they are happy with the results of the legislative audit though they seem to disagree about what the audit actually says.
When asked about the time it takes to resolve a case, Gunnarson said the report shows, "In general, we're operating within time frames." In contrast, Harper said the report shows, "[cases] are not being done in a timely fashion."
When asked about the allegations of bias, Gunnarson said the report revealed, "We are operating without bias." Harper said, "There's a perception of bias."
Both opinions are valid, as the audit does seem to contradict itself. According to the audit, "one in four [cases] do not meet the division's time standards," though it mentions that times have been improving in recent years.
Also according to the audit, there is zero “evidence" of actual bias by judges or Labor Commission hired doctors. But the report equivocates there is a, "perception of bias," and it reports "potential conflict of interest."
Harper has proposed legislation in response to the audit results that, if passed, would allow the Labor Commission to hire a person to supervise and train the medical personnel as well as judges. Gunnerson says she would gladly take the new employee.
“[The Commission is] very excited about the idea of being able to hire a medical director who can help us with the panels."
The bill is currently working its way through the Utah senate.
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)