Issues to watch in 2014/2015

Looking towards the future of workers’ compensation and the challenges ahead.

We thought it would be appropriate to address some of the current and future challenges in the Michigan workers’ compensation system.

Here is our list of the top five issues to watch in 2014/2015.

1. Evidence-Based Medicine

Proposed rules for evidence-based medicine were circulated in the beginning of 2014. We believe a variation will be presented for adoption sometime this year. Evidence-based medicine has been causing controversy for years. It sounds good on paper but does not work as advertised. It restricts choice of doctor and puts bureaucrats in charge of medical decision making. It is hard to imagine why this change is necessary considering medical payments are already the lowest in a multi-state survey and premiums keep dropping.

2. Phantom Wages

The Michigan Legislature passed significant workers’ compensation reforms in 2011. The most controversial involves calculating wage loss benefits. Insurance companies are now using a hypothetical wage earning capacity to say a person is only partially disabled. These phantom wages are then used to reduce or stop payments. It does not matter if the person has actually returned to work. Expect more litigation regarding this issue in the future.

3. Workplace Safety

We recently followed a sad story involving a local construction worker. He was not given safety equipment and fell to his death. His employer had been cited by MIOSHA on several occasions but corrective action was not taken. Felony charges have been filed by the Attorney General but the maximum penalty is only 1 year in jail. Tougher laws need to be passed to detour this type of behaviour.

4. Uninsured Employers

Mandatory insurance is the most important requirement of workers’ compensation. We have seen an increased number of uninsured employers trying to game the system. This ends up hurting everyone. Injured employees suffer because no insurance exists to pay for medical treatment or wage loss benefits. Taxpayers end up footing the bill through government programs like Medicaid and Medicare. We would like to see the State of Michigan take a more proactive role in enforcing this requirement.

5. Politics

Michigan workers’ compensation has once again become a political football. Special interests groups have spent big money trying to change the system for their benefit. Our elected officials need to remember that workers’ compensation was enacted as social and remedial legislation. It is supposed to err on the side of approving not denying benefits. This is the grand bargain that was established when employees gave up their right to a civil trial.

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.

Related information:

Premiums for workers compensation to decrease again in 2014

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by DafneCholet.

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