WSR 00-05-002

PREPROPOSAL STATEMENT OF INQUIRY

DEPARTMENT OF

LABOR AND INDUSTRIES

[ Filed February 3, 2000, 8:58 a.m. ]

Subject of Possible Rule Making: Vocational rehabilitation -- Private sector vocational provider purchasing.

Statutes Authorizing the Agency to Adopt Rules on this Subject: RCW 51.32.095, 51.04.030, 51.36.085, 51.36.100, 51.36.110.

Reasons Why Rules on this Subject may be Needed and What They Might Accomplish: In 1998-99, the Department of Labor and Industries (or L&I) conducted a study of its vocational purchasing practices, and concluded that the current method, contracting with private sector vocational providers, should be discontinued. In its place, the department's project consultant, William M. Mercer, Inc., recommended that the requirements of the contract be placed in WAC. In addition, other program improvements warrant significant changes to the current vocational rehabilitation, chapter 296-18A WAC. Without these rule changes, L&I will be unable to implement many of the changes needed to improve its vocational purchasing practices.

Other Federal and State Agencies that Regulate this Subject and the Process Coordinating the Rule with These Agencies: No other state or federal agencies are known to regulate this subject for Washington state industrially injured or ill workers. Historically, other state agencies have relied upon, or adopted similar standards to operate other state programs not involving injured workers.

Process for Developing New Rule: L&I intends to draft a new WAC chapter to replace the existing WAC chapter pertaining to vocational rehabilitation, chapter 296-18A WAC. The old chapter will then be stricken as part of the rule-making process.

In conducting the Mercer study of vocational purchasing, the department sought input from the Vocational Technical Stakeholder Group (VTSG) and the vocational provider community on Mercer's findings and recommendations. L&I will continue to work closely with the VTSG to obtain feedback and make improvements in the proposed WAC chapter.

Interested parties can participate in the decision to adopt the new rule and formulation of the proposed rule before publication by contacting Blake Maresh, Senior Health Policy Analyst, Department of Labor and Industries, Health Services Analysis, P.O. Box 44322, Olympia, WA 98504-4322, phone (360) 902-6564, fax (360) 902-4249, e-mail mabl235@lni.wa.gov.

L&I will hold public hearings as part of the official rule-making process during May. At present, L&I anticipates holding four public hearings in different geographic regions around the state. This number of hearings will allow the vocational provider community, self-insured employers and employer groups, trial lawyers, business and labor, and others numerous opportunities to comment. In addition, L&I will hold monthly meetings of the VTSG, where committee members and the audience will have an opportunity to provide input on many of the proposals that will be contained in the new WAC chapter. In addition, L&I staff are communicating via electronic mail with members of the VTSG during the development process, sharing proposals that will, in many cases, be included in the new WAC chapter. Finally, L&I staff will also be sharing its progress on all vocational improvements, including elements of the new WAC chapter, with representatives of business and labor on the Workers' Compensation Advisory Committee.

February 3, 2000

Gary Moore

Director

Washington State Code Reviser's Office