Wednesday, March 04, 2015

The Demolition of Workers’ Compensation - ProPublica

The Demolition of Workers’ Compensation - ProPublica

Is there inequity in the worker's comp system?  Are there some people who work the system? Are there some out and out frauds being perpetrated? Yes. But those things should be individually weeded out.

Don't punish all for the sins of the few.

In today's rush to put ever more money into the hands of the top echelon however, all the workers must be made to bear the burden. Because workers are cheap.

And may be even cheaper if the Pro Life and Anti Contraception groups have their way. Speaking of which: guess what company pops up as "Spear[heading] an effort to rebuild the workers' comp system from scratch"? Hobby Lobby.  Remember them? The ones who fought to not have to pay for contraceptives for their employees? Could there be a really evil link here?  Have to pump out more new little babies to fill the ranks of the disposable employee!?

As the states cut workmens' comp, the federal government is being asked to take on more of the expenses:

A study by J. Paul Leigh, a health economist at the University of California, Davis, estimated that workers’ comp covered less than a third of injured workers’ medical costs and lost earnings in 2007 and that government programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid had shelled out about $30 billion to fill part of the gap.
The rest came from regular health and disability insurance or out of workers’ pockets, Leigh said.
“We’re talking about taxpayers picking up the bill of something that should have been paid for by workers’ compensation insurers,” Leigh said.

This of course is the same federal government that so many of those  working to cut WC benefits are out to gut. They hate 'the fed' almost as much as they hate having to spend a dime on anyone other than themselves or their shareholders.  Question: if the fed is picking up the difference, and the federal budget is slashed to the point that they can't, what next? Is local charity going to step in and pay the costs? Perhaps we can go back to the old days, the old ways. Work houses. Alms houses. Cripples on the street, begging for handouts. And the poor dying on the street.

An interesting bit in the article:

The next week, Coffell got the medical report. The results were mixed: The doctor agreed that he had injured his spine at work and would need further treatment, which would be covered by workers’ comp. But he was not “temporarily totally disabled,” the doctor said, meaning his disability checks would stop and — pain or no pain — he would have to go back to work.
A few weeks later, Coffell fell returning home after 12 hours on his light duty job at Goodyear and ended up in the emergency room. Soon after, he was finally approved for surgery to shave down a bulging disc.

The interesting bit being "after 12 hours on his light duty job".  12 hour shifts, light duty or not, are an abomination. No one is at their best after 12 hours of working.

So, business as usual: the rich get richer and the poor get the hook.

Meanwhile, WSI’s hard line has helped make it, and the state’s employers, very flush. The agency can invest the surplus when insurance premiums exceed the amount needed to cover injuries. After reserves are met and if investments do well, money is then returned to employers in the form of dividends.
Since 2005, WSI has paid about $900 million back to employers.
The dividends given out in 2013 alone, a ProPublica analysis of federal injury data shows, could have paid for myoelectric prostheses for every U.S. worker who has lost an arm or hand on the job since 2001.

Rates are lower then ever, and funds that should be used for injured workers are rolled back into employers pockets.

But Ramirez now feels doubly vulnerable, knowing how easily his critical support could be taken away.
Lying awake at night, Ramirez wonders what will happen when he gets older, when he and his wife have even less strength, when his kids have families of their own.
“Those moments, they make you think it’s better to die before that happens,” he said. “I don’t want to live like that.”
And that seems to be what the powers that be want: for the masses to work without  complaint for as long as they're able, and then to quietly die.

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