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Impairment Rating Provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act Declared Unconstitutional by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court

PA Supreme Court Declares Key WC Act Provision Unconstitutional

Tuesday June 20, 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared the impairment rating evaluation (IRE) provision in Section 306(a.2) of the Workers’ Compensation Act as unconstitutional. The decision in Protz v. WCAB (Derry Area School District) determined that injured workers will no longer be subject to a cap on the length of wage loss benefits they received. Prior to the decision, Section 306(a.2) of Act allowed employers to require an injured worker to attend an IRE after receiving 104 weeks of disability benefits. A worker could be limited to 500 weeks of future wage loss if the whole body impairment was determined to be under 50% by an IRE Physician as identified by the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.

However, in the 6-1 majority opinion, authored by Justice Wecht, the Court determined that the Pennsylvania Legislature violated the state Constitution when it passed this provision because it gave “unfettered discretion over Pennsylvania’s impairment-rating methodology” to the American Medical Association, and “did not include in … any of the procedural mechanisms that this Court has considered essential to protect against ‘administrative arbitrariness and caprice.'”

The Court held that the delegation of the impairment determination was impermissible because only the legislature can make those decisions.

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