Category Archives: Workers’ Compensation

Walmart, Lowe’s, Safeway, and Nordstrom Are Bankrolling a Nationwide Campaign to Gut Workers’ Comp

Source: Molly Redden, Mother Jones, March 26, 2015

America’s biggest employers want to pick and choose the benefits they give their injured workers.

Nearly two dozen major corporations, including Walmart, Nordstrom, and Safeway, are bankrolling a quiet, multistate lobbying effort to make it harder for workers hurt on the job to access lost wages and medical care—the benefits collectively known as workers’ compensation.

The companies have financed a lobbying group, the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation (ARAWC), that has already helped write legislation in one state, Tennessee. Richard Evans, the group’s executive director, told an insurance journal in November that the corporations ultimately want to change workers’ comp laws in all 50 states. Lowe’s, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Sysco Food Services, and several insurance companies are also part of the year-old effort.

Laws mandating workers’ comp arose at the turn of the 20th century as a bargain between employees and employers: If a worker suffered an injury on the job, the employer would pay his medical bills and part of his wages while he recovered. In exchange, the worker gave up his right to sue for negligence.
ARAWC’s mission is to pass laws allowing private employers to opt out of the traditional workers’ compensation plans that almost every state requires businesses to carry. Employers that opt out would still be compelled to purchase workers’ comp plans. But they would be allowed to write their own rules governing when, for how long, and for which reasons an injured employee can access medical benefits and wages….
Special Series – Insult To Injury: America’s Vanishing Worker Protections
Source: NPR and ProPublica, 2015

Over the past decade, states have slashed workers’ compensation benefits, denying injured workers help when they need it most and shifting the costs of workplace accidents to taxpayers.

Stories include:
* Injured Workers Suffer As ‘Reforms’ Limit Workers’ Compensation Benefits
* Federal Regulators Link Workers’ Comp Failures To Income Inequality
* ‘Grand Bargain’ In Workers’ Comp Unravels, Harming Injured Workers Further
* As Workers’ Comp Varies From State To State, Workers Pay The Price
* How Much Is A Limb Worth?
* Workers’ Compensation Reforms By State
* California Auditing Insurance Company That Took Away Home Health Aide
* ‘I Lost A Hand And This Is Workman’s Comp. … I Didn’t Lose A Hook!’
* Alabama Bill Would Increase Workers’ Comp Benefits For Amputees
* Employers And Insurers Gain Control In Workers’ Compensation Disputes
* Reddit Ask Me Anything

Reflections on the State of Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Health & Safety in the United States and Canada

Source: Terence G. Ison, Compensation Benefits Review, vol. 47 no. 1, January/February 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
When an article similar to this one was published in Canada, it reflected primarily knowledge derived from firsthand experience in several provinces and territories, and empirical research in Ontario and British Columbia. Since that article was published in 2013, this new article reflects my research on recent publications in the United States on Workers’ Compensation. The article begins by explaining the damaging and overwhelming significance of experience rating. To enhance an understanding of current situations, the article then explains the legal history of Occupational Health & Safety and Workers’ Compensation. Then the role of physicians is discussed, particularly the difficulties they often have in distinguishing questions of law from questions of medicine. The article then deals with how decisions are made in the claims department of a Workers’ Compensation Board and by appeals tribunals. The practice of actuaries is explained, including the problems that their role creates. The limited role of judicial review is then mentioned, and finally the significance of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization. The article concludes with conclusions and comments.

Socialize Uber – It’s easier than you think.

Source: Mike Konczal and Bryce Covert, The Nation, Vol. 299 no. 26, December 29, 2014

….Given that the workers already own all the capital in the form of their cars, why aren’t they collecting all the profits? Worker cooperatives are difficult to start when there’s massive capital needed up front, or when it’s necessary to coordinate a lot of different types of workers. But, as we’ve already shown, that’s not the case with Uber. In fact, if any set of companies deserves to have its rentiers euthanized, it’s those of the “sharing economy,” in which management relies heavily on the individual ownership of capital, providing only coordination and branding….

Workers’ compensation: Poor quality health care and the growing disability problem in the United States

Source: Gary M. Franklin, Thomas M. Wickizer, Norma B. Coe, Deborah Fulton-Kehoe, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, first published online: October 20, 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The proportion of working age citizens permanently removed from the workforce has dramatically increased over the past 30 years, straining both Federal and State disability systems designed as a safety net to protect them. Almost one-third of these rapidly emerging disabilities are related to musculoskeletal disorders, and three of the top five diagnoses associated with the longest Years Lived with Disability are back, neck and other musculoskeletal disorders. The failure of Federal and state workers’ compensation systems to provide effective health care to treat non-catastrophic injuries has been largely overlooked as a principal source of permanent disablement and corresponding reduced labor force participation. Innovations in workers’ compensation health care delivery, and in use of evidence-based coverage methods such as prospective utilization review, are effective secondary prevention efforts that, if more widely adopted, could substantially prevent avoidable disability and provide more financial stability for disability safety net programs.

Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage, and Costs, 2012

Source: Ishita Sengupta, Marjorie Baldwin, and Virginia Reno, National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) August 2014

Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage, and Costs, 2012 is the seventeenth in a series begun by the National Academy of Social Insurance to provide the only comprehensive national data on this largely state-run program. The study provides estimates of workers’ compensation payments—cash and medical—for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and federal programs providing workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation benefits rose by 1.3 percent to $61.9 billion in 2012, while employer costs rose by 6.9 percent to $83.2 billion, according to a report (PDF) released today by the National Academy of Social Insurance (the Academy). … Despite the uptick in total benefits and costs in 2012, workers’ compensation benefits and costs per $100 of covered payroll have been lower in 2007 to 2012 than at any time over the last three decades. In 2012, benefits were $0.98 per $100 of covered payroll while employer costs were $1.32 per $100 of covered payroll.
Press release

Labor and Employment

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, 2013

Labor and employment issues are covered by a combination of state and federal laws and are important to workers, businesses, labor organizations and governments. NCSL’s resources on labor and employment issues are arranged around six topic clusters: Collective Bargaining, Discrimination, Employee Leave, Personnel Issues, Unemployment, and Wage and Hour. Hot issues for the 2013 legislative session include minimum wage, prevailing wage, right-to-work, unemployment, work-share programs, and collective bargaining. Click below for a list of NCSL labor and employment resources.
Sections include: Unemployment rates, State minimum wages, Employee misclassification, Working families, and three searchable legislative bill tracking databases on key labor and employment issues (collective bargaining, unemployment, workers compensation).

Uncompensated consequences of workplace injuries and illness: Long-term disability and early termination

Source: Robert M. Park, Anasua Bhattacharya, Journal of Safety Research, Volume 44, February 2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
► It is well-known that medical costs and lost wages from workplace injuries and illnesses are not fully compensated. ► Another consequence of these injuries or illnesses that can result in inadequate compensation could be long-term disability or early termination of employment. ► This study observed an association between prior workers compensation claims and the incidence rate of long-term disability or early termination. ► Depending on the employers and employee status, such as hourly vs. salaried or union membership, this association could go in either direction.

The Proportion of Work-Related Emergency Department Visits Not Expected to Be Paid by Workers’ Compensation: Implications for Occupational Health Surveillance, Research, Policy, and Health Equity

Source: Matthew R. Groenewold, Sherry L. Baron, Health Services Research, Article first published online: May 13, 2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Objective: To examine trends in the proportion of work-related emergency department visits not expected to be paid by workers’ compensation during 2003–2006, and to identify demographic and clinical correlates of such visits.

Principal Findings; A substantial and increasing proportion of work-related emergency department visits in the United States were not expected to be paid by workers’ compensation. Private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, and workers themselves were expected to pay for 40 percent of the work-related emergency department visits with this percentage increasing annually. Work-related visits by blacks, in the South, to for-profit hospitals and for work-related illnesses were all more likely not to be paid by workers’ compensation.

Conclusions; Emergency department-based surveillance and research that determine work-relatedness on the basis of expected payment by workers’ compensation systematically underestimate the occurrence of occupational illness and injury. This has important methodological and policy implications.

An Incentive-Based Approach to Regulating Workplace Chemicals

Source: Jason R. Bent, Ohio State Law Journal, Vol. 73 no. 6, 2013

From the abstract:
The United States’ system for regulating employee exposures to hazardous chemicals is broken. Absent regulation, the labor market fails to produce efficient levels of precaution against chemical exposures. Information asymmetries, long disease latency periods, and other characteristics of chemical exposures thwart the market’s ability to produce efficient risk/wage tradeoffs. These same characteristics permit employers and chemical manufacturers to externalize the costs of injuries caused by chemical exposures. The current U.S. regulatory system, including a combination of OSHA regulations and state workers’ compensation programs, is not correcting the labor market’s failure. The result is a level of workplace chemical exposure risk that is systematically too high, and a level of precaution that is systematically too low.

The reforms proposed in the literature to date do not harness the financial incentives of the least-cost information providers and least-cost risk avoiders: chemical manufacturers and employers. This Article takes the search for a solution in a new direction by using state workers’ compensation laws to capitalize on the incentives of chemical manufacturers and employers. The Article argues that state workers’ compensation laws should be amended in two ways: (1) shift the default burden of proof on causation to the respondents, but only in cases where there is no applicable OSHA exposure limit, and (2) allow employers to include chemical manufacturers as respondents in workers’ compensation proceedings for purposes of apportioning liability. These amendments could be implemented by convening a new National Commission on State Workers’ Compensation Laws. The result would be a new push for OSHA chemical exposure limits by chemical manufacturers and employers – the entities in the best position to provide the toxicity and precaution information necessary to support OSHA regulations.

Workers' Compensation: Benefits, Coverage, and Costs, 2010

Source: Ishita Sengupta, Virginia Reno, John F. Burton, Jr., and Marjorie Baldwin, National Academy of Social Insurance, August 2012

From the summary:
Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage, and Costs, 2010 is the fifteenth in a series begun by the National Academy of Social Insurance to provide the only comprehensive national data on this largely state-run program. The study provides estimates of workers’ compensation payments–cash and medical–for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and federal programs providing workers’ compensation.
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Press release