Laws that allow employers in Texas and Oklahoma to opt out of the states’ workers comp systems could be subject to federal oversight, according to an article today in Business Insurance.com, amid concerns about their effect on injured workers’ access to benefits and care and potential discrimination against employees who report workplace injuries and illnesses.
The article by Gloria Gonzalez, stated that last October, several Congressmen wrote to the U.S. Department of Labor asking for a report on how it would re-institute oversight of state workers comp systems.
The department annually tracked states’ compliance with recommended federal standards from 1972 to 2004, following an investigation by ProPublica Inc. and National Public Radio into state workers comp programs, the article reported. (Both ProPublica and NPR reports were previously cited by myself and others in earlier posts)
Ms. Gonzalez wrote that the letter also asked whether the department needed additional authority to protect injured workers’ rights and prevent cost shifting to taxpayers via programs such as Social Security.
Chris Mandel, senior vice president of strategic solutions at Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. in Nashville, was quoted as asking, “Is that a prelude to federalization?”
His question came Tuesday at the Business Insurance Rick Management Summit, and his reply to his own question was, “Who knows? But let’s just say they’re not happy with what they see.”
What does this mean to you?
It means Uncle Sam is watching, and he does not like what he sees going on with the expansion of opt-out legislation. Some of us already don’t like it and have not drunk the kool-aid just yet.
Let’s hope for the sake of injured workers that the feds do take a look under the microscope at the promises of opt-out and they find bacteria that can bring down the entire system, leaving injured workers where their great-grandfathers were before workers’ comp existed…out in the cold and out of luck if they got hurt.