Michigan Workers’ Compensation Agency (WCA) releases its 2013 Annual Report and we provide some needed perspective.
There is no question that workers’ compensation has gone through many changes in the last several years. The Michigan Supreme Court has made it much harder for injured workers to prove disability. This has resulted in less filings and total cases have declined more than 50% since 2003. Supreme court decisions such as Stokes v Chrysler and Rakestraw v General Dynamics Land Systems overwhelmingly favor insurance companies and corporate interests.
Legislative amendments passed in 2011 dramatically changed the payment of wage loss benefits. Insurance companies can now use “wage earning capacity” to stop payments regardless of whether a person has actually found employment. The insurance company says a person is only partially disabled but does not actually help them find a new job. Employers are no longer incentivized to bring employees back to work with restrictions. They get an automatic credit based upon a labor market survey. This also defeats the purpose of having vocational rehabilitation in the Act.
Evidence based medicine has been proposed through an administrative rule. This would replace the current standard of reasonable and necessary placing decision making authority in the hands of bureaucrats. This controversial change is being pushed despite the pure premium rate declining over 20% in the last 3 years. The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), a not-for-profit organization, also found that medical payments in Michigan were typically lower than all 16 states in its 2013 study.
Total new cases have dropped to 7,109 in 2013 from 10,368 in 2008. We can tell you from experience that less cases are being filed because the burden of proof is so difficult. This mostly affects low wage earners and medical only claims.
Magistrate disposition statistics show only 20 open awards and 61 denials for 2013. This is a sharp decline from just five years ago with 141 open awards and 126 denials in 2008.
Here is the full 2013 Annual Report. Unfortunately, things will not improve until we have new leadership in Lansing.
Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers never charges a fee to evaluate a case. We have represented injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Call (855) 221-2667 for a free consultation.