Changes to workers’ compensation show why elections are important.
The AFL-CIO recently posted 5 Reasons Why Rick Snyder Is One of the Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections. Reason No. 2 includes cutting workers’ compensation.
We are glad this issue is finally getting some attention. Here are some ways that workers’ compensation has changed under Rick Snyder.
Introduction of “phantom wages”
Rick Snyder signed House Bill 5002 on December 19, 2011. This legislation brought major changes to workers’ compensation. The most controversial involved the calculation of wage loss benefits. Insurance companies can now use “phantom wages” to say a person is only partially disabled. It does not matter whether the disabled employee has actually found a new job. The burden is on the individual to file a workers’ compensation case and prove entitlement to full benefits.
Try supporting your family on just 60% of gross pay (80% after-tax average weekly wage). Now imagine what would happen if that amount was cut in half – because the insurance company says you can work somewhere else. It’s not a fair system and Michigan families are suffering.
Limiting your choice of doctor
House Bill 5002 also lengthens the amount of time that employers and insurance company select medical providers. A person must now wait 28 days to get a second opinion or choose his or her own doctor. People are forced to get medical treatment at industrial clinics and are typically under diagnosed.
Tougher burden of proof
House Bill 5002 codified several controversial Supreme Court decisions regarding the burden of proof. Insurance companies can easily dispute medical treatment for anyone with a preexisting condition. Considering that most people have some degenerative arthritis, this is a major problem. The burden of proof has become so extreme that many people have no remedy at all.
More employer abuse
Another change allows insurance companies to stop payment if a person is terminated for “fault.” This includes violating a company rule or policy. The language is extremely vague and ripe for employer abuse.
We had a client who was fired for getting his hand caught in a machine. The employer said his actions were deemed negligent and benefits were stopped. This is absurd considering workers’ compensation is supposed to be a no-fault system.
House Bill 5002 abolished the Qualifications Advisory Committee (QAC) and removed term limits for magistrates. 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 remedial social 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 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 Ken Zirkel.