Nate Boulten

Republicans in the Iowa Senate have sent the governor a bill that significantly changes Iowa’s workers compensation system, but not as dramatically as Republicans originally suggested in February.

The bill no longer cuts off workers comp benefits at age 67 and it does not reduce benefits for shoulder injuries as significantly as the bill’s original version did. Senator Nate Boulton, a Democrat from Des Moines, called those changes a start.

“It makes a very dangerous bill better,” Boulton said as Senators began debate on the measure early Monday afternoon. “It does not solve all the problems.”

Senator Michael Breitbach, a Republican from Strawberry Point, said the bill is necessary because too many lawsuits are being filed and the 1913 law was designed to quickly determine benefits to injured workers and avoid lawsuits.

“I believe this bill returns the law to its intended balance, protecting employees and employers,” Breitbach said, “and ensuring everyone is paid in a timely manner while providing the intended predictability.”

According to Boulton, the end result still is a “wish list” from “corporations and insurance companies.”

“It’s about preserving corporate profits at the expense of Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens,” Boulton said. “…I am floored by what this legislation seeks to do to working Iowans. It is unconscionable.”

Breitbach shot back.

“I think it should scare us the number of claims that attorneys have filed in the last month because they’re afraid we might change the law,” Breitbach said.

Earlier this month, Governor Terry Branstad said he was “pleased” Republican legislators were preparing a workers comp system adjustment and he’s expected to sign the bill into law. Branstad has accused lawyers of “tilting” workers comp and making it more of a “long term disability” system rather than temporary financial help while a worker recovers from an injury.