Tuesday, April 20, 2010

ICAP says no wage adjustment in Whalen case

In Whalen the claimant appealed a decision by the hearing judge not to make any adjustment in the wage calculations when the claimant lost his employer health coverage and went on medicaid. Normally when you have health coverage through your employer then the cost of obtaining similar coverage is added into the wage calculations. This often results in higher temporary and permanent benefits. In a sense being provided health coverage by your employer is a wage benefit so losing it should mean an adjustment must be made. But in this case ICAP (the Industrial Claim Appeals Panel) decided the appeal against the claimant. ICAP reviewed the law and decided that medicaid was an equivalent insurance and since it was at no cost to the claimant then nothing gets added into the wage calculations. There was a dissent so perhaps this case will be appealed to a higher court. ICAP did reason that since medicare was an equivalent health insurance (based on an older case) then medicaid was also. The problem for me is that medicaid is provided at no cost to the poor. So a claimant with an employer health insurance who loses it and then cannot afford anything turns to medicaid. He may be on medicaid for only a short period yet this case says the fact it is free means no added benefit for the loss of the employer health insurance. His inability to purchase health coverage is then used against him. The statute on wages is at 8-40-201(19). In 2006 the Colorado Supreme Court decided in the Ray case that you add the cost to purchase health coverage to the wage figures and if the claimant cannot or does not actually purchase it then it is still added. Medicaid is a non-purchase matter and it would be interesting to see what a higher court would decide.
Pending legislation also may change this. SB 10-187.

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