Throwing away 100 years of workers’ comp

A critical look at the opt-out movement and how corporate money is fueling its advance.

ProPublica has published another fascinating and well-written article about workers’ comp. It is probably the most significant investigation into the opt-out movement that we have seen. It is a great read and shows why people need to be skeptical.

The investigation looked at plans of nearly 120 companies who have opted out in Texas and Oklahoma. It found universally lower benefits, more restrictions, and virtually no independent oversight compared to state workers’ compensation laws.

Employers were given almost complete control over the medical and legal process. This includes selecting doctors and limiting review options. It also allows harsh rules permitting denials for otherwise compensable claims. In some opt-out plans, common occupational injuries were entirely removed from coverage. Others could not seek follow-up surgical care because the window of time for medical treatment had passed. Committees set up by employers would hear complaints.

The ProPublica investigation comes on the heels of a Mother Jones article in March showing that corporate money is indeed fueling the opt-out movement. Walmart, Nordstrom, Safeway, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Sysco Food Services have financed a lobbying group, the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation (ARAWC), to challenge laws in all fifty states.

Michigan has not yet seen a big push for opt-out. Part of the reason could be that premiums for workers’ comp have seen a 34% decline in the last 4 years.

Michigan adopted its first workers’ comp law in 1912. It was designed as a grand bargain between labor and business. Employees hurt on-the-job get medical treatment and lost wages. Employers get protection from civil lawsuits and only pay limited benefits.

The opt-out movement goes well past traditional reform efforts. It seeks to destroy the grand bargain that workers’ comp represents and remove a critical safety net for millions of Americans. We simply cannot surrender our legal rights to big corporations and expect a fair system for all stakeholders.

Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers never charges a fee to evaluate a potential case. Our law firm has represented injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Call (855) 221-2667 for a free consultation today.

Related information:

Corporate Money Fuels Opt-Out Movement

Photos courtesy of Creative Commons, by Rocpoc14.

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