Michael Grabell for ProPublica and Howard Berkes for NPR have written a telling and tragic expose of the state by state erosion of protections and benefits for injured workers under the various state systems of Workers’ Compensation in our country. The article, is titled The Demolition of Workers’ Comp, and while it is a rather lengthy read, it details the strategies of big business and the insurance industry in tandem with Republican-controlled state legislatures that have increased the struggle injured, diseased, and disabled workers must endure to get the needed medical care and compensation they are entitled to receive after on-the-job injuries are sustained and diseases are contracted.
Ohio is no exception to the onslaught of attacks on injured workers’ rights and benefits. For more than three decades, big corporations and the insurance industry have seen their causes championed by the Chamber of Commerce and the Manufacturers Association to the receptive ears of our State’s General Assembly resulting in changes in laws, rules and regulations, and policies that make it more difficult to establish coverage in the event of an industrial injury or disease or even to receive benefits, compensation, and much needed medical care in the event that coverage is established. And even in those situations where laws have been enacted to protect injured workers, our Supreme Court of Ohio with its six Republicans to one Democrat majority often interprets those laws to benefit cost savings for employers at the expense of the injured worker who relies on said benefits to feed and clothe his/her family and receive medical treatment for his/her injury or disease.
Far too often we hear the argument that Workers’ Compensation costs are too high for employers. But as the article explains, premiums for employers are at a 25-year low. As I write, The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, is proposing yet another premium reduction of approximately 10.8% for employers. The question arises as to how the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation can justify these premium reductions and at whose expense. I submit the answer is obvious. The injured worker and his/her family pay the price.
Proponents of benefit reductions also advance the argument that such measures are necessary to respond to fraudulent claims being advanced by the system. But the article tells us that, “Few of the cuts were driven by concerns about fraud, which is estimated to account for only a small percentage of the $60 billion spent on workers’ comp each year. And studies show most of the money lost to fraud results not from workers making false claims but from employers misclassifying workers and underreporting payroll to get cheaper insurance rates.” [Emphasis supplied]. It certainly appears that the fox is indeed in the hen house.
Finally, the article exposes the impact that denying compensation and medical benefits to injured workers affects all tax-paying citizens. When compensation and medical benefits are denied under Workers’ Compensation, the net effect is that the costs for treatment and compensation are transferred to other workers and taxpayers in general through Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. (See page 3). The long and short of it is that each and every one of us, even without having been injured or diseased on the job, is now paying the price for increased profits for the big corporations and the insurance giants.
Unfortunately, most people are not remotely aware that these things are happening until they have the misfortune of having it happen to them. But even if you aren’t one of those individuals who have had the misfortune of being injured, diseased, or disabled as a result of your job, please take a moment to read the article and experience the very real human costs that have arisen as big business and the insurance industry in America reap the benefit of record profits at the expense of those who are often not in a position to fight back.
It really is time to stop the attack on injured workers. At Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer, we’re proud of our commitment to fighting for injured workers and our track record of success for those who need help. I hope you never need our services, but if you do, we are here for you.
Call us, we can help.