- Since 2003, legislators in 33 states have passed workers’ comp laws that reduce benefits or make it more difficult for those with certain injuries and diseases to qualify for them.
- In 37 states, workers can’t pick their own doctor or are restricted to a list provided by their employers.
- For those patients who are able to access workers’ comp benefits, the amounts have been reduced by as much as 65%.
A report by ProPublica and National Public Radio has found that access to workers’ compensation benefits has been significantly restricted in a large majority of the United States. For those patients who are able to access workers’ comp benefits, the amounts have been reduced by as much as 65%.
As a result, you will likely see fewer workers’ compensation patients in your practice. According to ProPublica, the researchers analyzed insurance industry data, studied state laws, and obtained confidential medical and court records to “provide an unprecedented look at the unwinding of workers’ comp laws across the country.”
Among the findings:
- Since 2003, legislators in 33 states have passed workers’ comp laws that reduce benefits or make it more difficult for those with certain injuries and diseases to qualify for them. Florida has cut benefits to its most severely disabled workers by 65% since 1994.
- Where a worker gets hurt matters. Because each state has developed its own system, an amputated arm can literally be worth two or three times as much on one side of a state line than the other. The maximum compensation for the loss of an eye is $27,280 in Alabama, but $261,525 in Pennsylvania.
- Many states have not only shrunk the payments to injured workers, they’ve also cut them off after an arbitrary time limit — even if workers haven’t recovered. After John Coffell hurt his back at an Oklahoma tire plant last year, his wages dropped so dramatically that he and his family were evicted from their home.
- Employers and insurers increasingly control medical decisions, such as whether an injured worker needs surgery. In 37 states, workers can’t pick their own doctor or are restricted to a list provided by their employers.
- In California, insurers can now reopen old cases and deny medical care based on the opinions of doctors who never see the patient and don’t even have to be licensed in the state. Joel Ramirez, who was paralyzed in a warehouse accident, had his home health aide taken away, leaving him to sit in his own feces for up to eight hours.
Presented with ProPublica and NPR’s findings, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., one of the leading worker advocates in Congress, said the changes undermine the basic protections for injured workers.
The rollback “would be bad if it were happening in one state,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa, who ProPublica called “one of the leading worker advocates in Congress.”
“But the fact that a number of states have moved in this direction is disturbing and it should be unacceptable to people in both political parties,” he added. They call them reforms. That’s a real insult to workers,” said Senator Casey.