Discussion begins Thursday on proposed reforms to the state's workers' compensation system. The state Senate's Labor and Industrial Relations Committee will debate senate bills 560 and 613.

SB 560, which is sponsored by Sen. Jack Donohue, would seek to create a level playing field for both employers and injured employees. Ginger Dykes, events coordinator for the Acadian Homebuilders Association, says the current system favors one party over another.

Donohue's bill would also create medical provider networks for the workers' compensation system, similar those those networks in most health insurance plans.

"Louisiana is one of only eight states that allow employees exclusive choice of treating physician," Dykes says. Thirty states have plans similar to that being proposed, Dykes says.

The Donohue plan would also "eliminate thousands of dollars in penalties for simple errors...when payors act to correct them."

SB 613, sponsored by Sen. Paige Cortez, would prevent penalties against employers for simple errors or disagreements over medical reimbursement and would provide procedures for resolving such disputes. It would also get injured workers back into the workforce more quickly, Dykes says, by allowing doctors to coordinate with vocational rehabilitation counselors, who would find appropriate jobs for such employees.

"Louisiana's WC system is out of step with those in most states," Dykes says. "There is more litigation in our system than in other states, and the result is one of the costliest systems in the country."