Category Archives: Workers’ Compensation

Portable Benefits and the Gig Economy: A Backgrounder

Source: Adi Kamdar, OnLabor blog, April 8, 2016

The debate surrounding the gig economy has cast light on workers who depend for their livelihood on multiple sources of income.  For example, an Uber driver may also be working for Lyft, and a freelance website designer may have five clients at the same time.  But when classified as contractors, these workers may miss out on employer-provided health benefits, unemployment, worker’s compensation, paid sick days, and more. In a letter titled “Common ground for independent workers,” a group of tech gurus, union leaders, and startup CEOs recently called for a change in how benefits work.  As they argued in the letter: “Everyone, regardless of employment classification, should have access to the option of an affordable safety net that supports them when they’re injured, sick, in need of professional growth, or when it’s time to retire.”  Their call to action pushes for “flexibility and stability”: the flexibility to work multiple jobs, temporarily or long term, with varying schedules—all while experiencing the stability of a safety net.  Workers’ benefits, they say, shouldn’t be tied to an employer. They should be portable.

Employer reasons for failing to report eligible workers’ compensation claims in the BLS survey of occupational injuries and illnesses

Source: Christina L. Rappin, Sara E. Wuellner and David K. Bonauto, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, Article first published online: March 11, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: Little research has been done to identify reasons employers fail to report some injuries and illnesses in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII).

Methods: We interviewed the 2012 Washington SOII respondents from establishments that had failed to report one or more eligible workers’ compensation claims in the SOII about their reasons for not reporting specific claims. Qualitative content analysis methods were used to identify themes and patterns in the responses.

Results: Non-compliance with OSHA recordkeeping or SOII reporting instructions and data entry errors led to unreported claims. Some employers refused to include claims because they did not consider the injury to be work-related, despite workers’ compensation eligibility. Participant responses brought the SOII eligibility of some claims into question.

Conclusion: Systematic and non-systematic errors lead to SOII underreporting. Insufficient recordkeeping systems and limited knowledge of reporting requirements are barriers to accurate workplace injury records.

Unreported workers’ compensation claims to the BLS Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses: Establishment factors

Source: Sara E. Wuellner, Darrin A. Adams and David K. Bonauto, American Journal of Industrial MedicineEarly View, Article first published online: January 21, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: Studies suggest employers underreport injuries to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII); less is known about reporting differences by establishment characteristics.

Methods: We linked SOII data to Washington State workers’ compensation claims data, using unemployment insurance data to improve linking accuracy. We used multivariable regression models to estimate incidence ratios (IR) of unreported workers’ compensation claims for establishment characteristics.

Results: An estimated 70% of workers’ compensation claims were reported in SOII. Claims among state and local government establishments were most likely to be reported. Compared to large manufacturing establishments, unreported claims were most common among small educational services establishments and large construction establishments.

Conclusions: Underreporting of workers’ compensation claims to SOII varies by establishment characteristics, obscuring true differences in work injury incidence. Findings may differ from previous research due to differences in study methods.

Disease victims often shut out of workers’ comp system

Source: Jamie Smith Hopkins, Center for Public Integrity, November 4, 2015

Legal barriers for sick workers can be insurmountable; costs are shifted to families and federal programs such as Medicare…. Americans hurt at work have a difficult enough time with the state-by-state system when their injury is so obvious and immediate — such as an amputation — that it can’t be blamed on anything but the job. When it comes to chemically induced illnesses and other job-triggered diseases that creep up over time, according to researchers and the federal agency overseeing occupational safety, workers’ comp rarely works at all….

Inside Corporate America’s Campaign to Ditch Workers’ Comp

Source: Michael Grabell and Howard Berkes, ProPublica and NPR, October 14, 2015

One Texas lawyer is helping companies opt out of workers’ compensation and write their own rules. What does it mean for injured workers?

Price Check: How Companies Value Body Parts (interactive)
Benefits for the same body part can differ dramatically depending on which company you work for.

The Demolition of Workers’ Comp
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.

How Much Is Your Arm Worth? Depends On Where You Work
Each state determines its own workers’ compensation benefits, which means workers in neighboring states can end up with dramatically different compensation for identical injuries.

Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage, and Costs, 2013

Source: Ishita Sengupta and Marjorie L. Baldwin, National Academy of Social Insurance, ISBN: 1-884902-63-4, August 2015

From the press release:
Workers’ compensation benefits as a share of payroll for injured workers continue to decline even as employment grows and overall employer costs increase, according to a new report from the National Academy of Social Insurance (the Academy). … Despite the growth in employment following the Great Recession – and the significant uptick in employees eligible to receive workers’ compensation – benefits per $100 of covered payroll dropped to $0.98 in 2013, a 5 percent decrease from 2009. At the same time, the growing workforce has translated into rising workers’ compensation costs for employers – now $1.37 per $100 of covered payroll, a 5 percent increase from 2009. Workers’ compensation benefits as a share of payroll were lower in 2013 than during almost any period in the last three decades, according to the report, Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage, and Costs, 2013. Total workers’ compensation benefits in 2013 were $63.6 billion, while employer costs were $88.5 billion. Benefits as a percent of payroll declined in 39 states between 2009 and 2013, continuing a national trend in lower benefits relative to payroll that began in the 1990s. ….

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.