New York Workers’ Compensation Reform Impact on Gaming, Thoroughbred, and Breeding Industries

Joseph MelchionneAs has been widely publicized, in April the New York State Senate passed a $153 billion state budget for 2017-2018 which included numerous reforms and changes to the state’s Workers’ Compensation laws.

The most publicized changes to the existing law have been new reforms that ensure that significantly injured workers have the right to be considered for lifetime benefits, new prescription drug formularies, and the overhaul of the New York State Medical Treatment Guidelines. The aforementioned changes have obscured less obvious or publicized provisions such as changes to the gaming, thoroughbred, and breeding industries in the state.

Thoroughbred horse trainers and owners in the state of New York have made numerous attempts in the past to negotiate the ever rising insurance costs but their efforts have failed. The reason that prior attempts were unsuccessful is because the insurance fund that they pay into lacked the legal security to secure insurance coverage of their own.

The new reforms that were included in New York’s new budget include provisions that, for the first time, give the New York Jockey Injury Compensation Fund authority to negotiate directly with insurance companies for not just workers that have been traditionally covered, like jockeys, but potentially all backstretch workers.

People that work in the horse gaming industry have often complained that the rising costs of Workers’ Compensation insurance has compelled the sharp rise in payroll costs and has deterred out-of-state trainers from participating in New York State horse racing.

Prior attempts to get insurance companies to develop different coverage plans were rejected because trainers and owners did not have the authority to negotiate their own policies. The language of the reform bills now state that the jockey fund may “. . . elect  . . . to secure workers’ compensation insurance coverage through a form of self-insurance.”

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Joseph Melchionne is an associate attorney at Lois LLC where he defends employers and carrier in New York workers’ compensation claims. Joseph can be reached directly at jmelchionne@lois-llc.com or 201-880-7213.