WHAT IS THE WAIVER AGREEMENT MANAGEMENT OFFICE (WAMO)?
The 2007 Workers' Compensation Reform legislation mandated that the NYS Workers' Compensation Board (Board) Chair establish a Waiver Agreement Management Office (WAMO), “…to negotiate and seek Board approval for waiver agreements on behalf of the special disability fund.” [WCL §32(e)].
WHY WAS WAMO CREATED?
WAMO and the other new provisions within WCL §32, are part of the two-pronged approach to close the Special Disability Fund as quickly and completely as possible; and thereby greatly reduce or eliminate the annual assessments against self-insured employers, insurance carriers and the State Insurance Fund. The first prong of the reform legislation's approach is the prohibition of Special Disability Fund reimbursement under WCL §15(8)(d) and §14(6) for any and all cases with a date of accident or date of disablement on or after July 1, 2007. The second prong will be the resolution of claims by WAMO, together with the other mechanisms provided by the amendments to WCL §32; all of which will aid in greatly reducing or eliminating assessments.
HOW WILL WAMO RESOLVE INDIVIDUAL CASES AND THEREBY REDUCE ASSESSMENTS?
WAMO is empowered to enter into waiver agreements under WCL §32 with individual claimants in whose cases Special Disability Fund liability has been established. Pursuant to WCL §32(i)(1), WAMO also, “ …may contract with any third-party to manage, administer or settle claims on its behalf, …”
ARE THERE ANY OTHER MECHANISMS AVAILABLE TO THE BOARD TO ASSIST IN CLOSING OUT THE SPECIAL DISABILITY FUND AND THEREBY REDUCING ASSESSMENTS?
Yes. Pursuant to WCL §32(i)(2), the Chair, “…shall have discretion to procure one or more private entities to assume the liability for and management, administration or settlement of all or a portion of the claims in the special disability fund.” Also, the Board may enter into agreements with individual self-insured employers, carriers and the State Insurance Fund to assume the liability for, or management, administration or settlement of their respective cases. [WCL §32(i)(5)].
HOW WILL THESE VARIOUS MECHANISMS HELP TO LOWER ASSESSMENTS?
Any of the agreements, contracts or other mechanisms discussed above, “…shall expressly provide that the special disability fund is no longer liable for the claims covered by the contract …” [WCL 32(i)(3)]. Assessments are calculated based upon annual payments made by the Special Disability Fund. Thus, every case resolved by WAMO or subject to a transfer of liability will no longer result in additional claims for reimbursement from the Special Disability Fund. This will result in reduced assessments.