Nationwide effort to destroy workers’ compensation system underway and why you need to start paying attention.
Molly Redden at Mother Jones has published an excellent article regarding lobbying efforts by major corporations to create an opt-out provision in state workers’ compensation laws. This would allow corporations to create their own rules when it comes to available benefits and dispute resolution.
According to the article, corporations such as 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.
Texas and Oklahoma already have an opt-out provision in place. This has allowed corporations to restrict choice of doctor and put caps on benefits. Claimants with disputes are forced into arbitration with entities of the corporations choosing.
Tennessee is up next with the introduction of opt-out legislation. The proposal would reduce lifetime medical benefits to just three years or $300,000, whichever comes first. A scary thought for anyone suffering a life changing injury.
ARAWC defends its efforts as just introducing a free-market alternative. It blames individuals who make their living off controversy and as not liking efficiency or proven results. It maintains that opt-out will actually be good for employees because corporate plans result in clearer processes and cut red tape.
Our 2 cents
Michigan adopted its first workers’ compensation law in 1912. It was designed as a grand bargain between labor and business. Individuals hurt on-the-job get medical treatment and lost wages regardless of fault. Corporations get protection from civil lawsuits and only pay limited benefits. It is truly a compromise of interests.
It is hard not to laugh at the assertions made by ARAWC. Introducing an opt-out approach will indeed destroy workers’ compensation because the entire system is premised on the fact that all employers must buy-in. According to the State of Michigan, there are over 400 entities currently allowed to write insurance policies and it’s hard to image that competition is a problem. The pure premium rate has also gone down nearly 30% in the last 3 years.
Opt-out goes well beyond traditional reform efforts. It destroys the grand bargain that workers’ compensation represents and removes 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.
Watch our blog for additional updates on this important topic.
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.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by 401(K) 2013.