As noted in my last blog entry, many injured workers in Pennsylvania receiving Worker’s Compensation benefits are obligated to undergo an impairment rating evaluation after they have received 104 weeks of total disability benefits. When the Pennsylvania state legislature passed the changes to the Worker’s Compensation act (in 1996), it required such evaluations to be done under the “most recent” version of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. Recently, Abes Baumann attorneys have attacked the constitutionality of the use of the AMA Guides in a case known as Protz v. WCAB. Abes Baumann argued that the use of the Guides constituted an unconstitutional delegation of authority by the state legislature to the American Medical Association. In Protz the Commonwealth Court determined (in a four – three decision) that the use of the fifth and sixth editions of the Guides for impairment rating evaluations was not constitutional. The court concluded that ratings could still be done using the fourth edition of the AMA Guides, which was in effect at the time the Worker’s Compensation act was amended in 1996.
Both Abes Baumann and the attorneys for the employer in the Protz case have requested that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court accept an appeal on the issues in the case. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is not a court which must accept any and all appeals. It determines itself which cases to accept and not to accept.
The Abes Baumann firm maintains that use of the AMA guides in any manner is not constitutional. If this were to be upheld by the Supreme Court, many injured workers in the state of Pennsylvania would benefit from such a decision. The parties are not likely to hear from the Supreme Court as to whether it will accept the appeal until late winter.