David De Paolo posted on his blog today about a case in Florida where the plaintiffs are challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s workers’ comp system on the grounds that the various reforms over the many years the system has been in existence has served to devalue the workers’ compensation program to such a degree that it no longer can be said to meet its constitutionally declared objectives.
The plaintiffs in Julio Cortes v Velda Farms allege, according to De Paolo, that the comp system became “unconstitutional as an exclusive remedy in stages,” as lawmakers made changes that slowly eroded the benefits and protections available to workers.
The plaintiffs argue that up until 1968, parties could “opt-out” of participating in the comp system, much in the way Texas and Oklahoma are allowing employers to do now, but when workers’ compensation became the exclusive remedy for industrial injuries in 1970, the plaintiffs argue that lawmakers did not provide workers with anything in exchange for completely taking away their right to sue.
The plaintiffs are basing their argument on a 1973 case that asserted that anytime the Legislature takes away a right that had previously been guaranteed to the citizens of the state, it must provide a “reasonable alternative.”
De Paolo says that the plaintiffs have a long way to go in proving their case, but it made me stop and think of what might happen if the workers’ comp system was declared unconstitutional, and what that could mean for medical travel.
First of all, the employees might file claims under the employer’s group heaIth plan, so as part of the benefits package, the employer could offer medical travel as a option under their health plan. Second, it could mean that employers and employees might be more willing to pursue medical care out of state, for different reasons, of course. Employers would be interested in saving money and the employees would be interested in getting treated in their home countries.
Given the workforce demographic in Florida, medical treatment in their home countries in Latin America and the Caribbean would be more likely once injured workers and their employers are no longer be subject to administrative law judges and the courts, and that may boost medical travel in the region.