Two reports. One by NPR and ProPublica. The other by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Released at the same time. Both on the issue of cuts to workers’ compensation nationwide.
Same conclusions: Workers are quickly losing the aspects that made the bargain of workers’ compensation worthwhile to employees. Due to legislative action in the last decade, benefits are not easily obtained and the monthly payouts are often far less than they should be. When the exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation was established, workers traded the right to sue employers for negligence related to on-the-job injuries in exchange for assurance that their company would subsidize their basic needs while they recovered.
There is now a wide-ranging disparity of these benefits among states, and if action isn’t taken soon, we will see this trend continue.
The dual investigation by NPR and non-profit journalism think tank ProPublica revealed that since 2003, more than 30 states have taken some type of legislative action to slash workers’ compensation benefits, make it tougher to get benefits or put up roadblocks to keep workers from getting reasonable medical care. That has meant many qualifying workers are plunged into poverty after a work injury.
Meanwhile, these reductions have largely benefited big companies and insurers, who unsurprisingly lobbied heavily for the changes.
OSHA’s report concluded much the same. The federal agency responsible for investigating workplace accidents indicated workers’ compensation pays just one-fifth the overall cost of workplace illnesses and injuries. Recent changes have made it much tougher for injured workers to receive benefits to which they are entitled.
OSHA indicated that if companies were required to pay the real cost of these injuries, there would be a far greater incentive to make workplaces safer. They would want to prevent these injuries from happening in the first place.
Instead, what’s happening is that workers, their families and taxpayers are bearing the burden of covering these costs, in effect subsidizing dangerous employers. Costs are instead covered by programs like Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance, personal health care coverage and out-of-pocket payments.
In Georgia, it was revealed employers in 1988 paid, on average, $3.87 per unit in workers’ compensation insurance. In 2014, they pay just $1.75. That’s $2.12 less – despite inflation during that time.
So companies can’t complain they have to cut costs as a result of sky-high premiums. The facts simply don’t bear that out.In some cases, workers are having to file for bankruptcy just to get out from underneath the debt incurred as a result of a work injury.
This is simply not how it should be.
Our experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys are committed to ensuring our clients receive the benefits they deserve.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.