Opt-Out: Here We Go Again

Once again, we have to look at the issue of opt-out. This time in the land of Lincoln.

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

Abraham Lincoln

Yet, it seems that Capital is still trying to stick it to Labor by dismantling the workers’ comp state systems.

Stephanie Goldberg, writing yesterday in Business Insurance, reported that the Illinois Policy Institute, an organization the Republican Governor, Bruce Rauner, has previously donated to, issued a report last month calling for “updates” [Emphasis added] to the state’s more than 100-year-old system.

The author of the report and the director of the institute’s regulatory reform, Mark Adams, said in an phone interview that, “the system that is in place isn’t serving workers effectively.”

He acknowledged that it is difficult to reform the system because there are so many stakeholders (a point made by myself and others).

Yet, the report goes on to say that, “the most effective way for government to protect workers is not by a restrictive one-size-fits-all system, by by creating broad rules of the game that give workers more freedom to contract with employers for a deal that is better suited to their own situation.”

On the one hand, what the report is stating makes sense, and seems to agree with the idea of opening up the system to new ways of providing care to injured workers, but if we look deeper at the alleged success of opt-out in Texas, Oklahoma, and the failure to get it passed in Tennessee and South Carolina, we find that the proponents of opt-out have not been very up front and honest on the subject.

What they really want is to blow up the entire workers’ comp system nationwide, and take us back to before Triangle, a point they seem to be making quite successfully in some quarters of the work comp industry because of the apolitical and ahistorical atmosphere in which this issue is often discussed.

We recently lost one brave soul who fought the temptation to drink the kool-aid on opt-out, and we cannot let his memory pass without remembering that he was not fully convinced that opt-out had proved itself.

In my last post, I mentioned what happens to closed systems if they do not change. With opt-out, we would not be seeing an opening of the system that still offers protections to injured workers, albeit with more options and more flexibility, but rather a complete and utter destruction of the entire system, which is what ARAWC and the Illinois Policy Institute wants, so that the employer is the one who benefits, not the employee.

Mark Adams stated that the system they have looks like it deals with the 19th Century, and not with telecommuters, or people who balance caring for a child, an elderly relative, and work responsibilities. True, but going back to the 19th Century when workers had to sue for benefits, if they were lucky to get to court, is not the answer.

One reason why opt-out has not been successful outside of Texas and Oklahoma, is as Stephanie Goldberg, says, the potential for constitutional challenges to opt-out laws could give pause to states considering legislation, as what happened in February when the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission ruled that provisions of the state’s Employee Injury Benefit Act deprive workers of equal protection and access to the courts, and to unfairly allow employers to define “injury.” The Supreme Court in Oklahoma is reviewing the case.

One wonders what the old railsplitter would think about the idea to deprive Labor of its rights to equal protection and access to courts, and to benefits they deserve when injured on the job. Lincoln would be horrified to learn that Capital has become superior to Labor.

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5 thoughts on “Opt-Out: Here We Go Again

  1. dinajpadillagmailcom

    It is truly amazing that we have legislators who are always worried about corporations and not those who work for them, making them, the giants of what they are out of the fruits of their employees labor.
    I guess getting back millions of rebates from employer’s insurance investments on not paying out claims just isn’t enough, is it? To what extent has greed taken over in the corporate world to deny those who toil for them and this is 2016 not 1906, right?

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  2. Transforming Workers' Comp Post author

    Greed is a part of it, but more succinctly, it is a recrudescence of 18th and 19th Century Capitalist values that never actually went away. It just was too difficult for conservatives to express their views when reformers and progressive politicians in both parties pushed reform legislation like workers’ comp, unemployment insurance, the eight hour day, and so on. The rising cost of labor, due to unions pushing for higher wages, oil embargos that caused the prices of goods to go up (inflation), and various economic policies from Nixon’s “shocks” to Reagan’s “supply side” voodoo economics, impacted their ability to pay their top executives adequate compensation (some would say excessive), return investment to their share or stock holders, and to make a profit in light of increasing competition from foreign nations. You must see it as a totality of all the things that have happened since the late 1960’s..

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    1. dinajpadillagmailcom

      I know about the Federalists and Confederate’s societies not liking the liberal laws or workers that were of the 60’s& 70’s and all the way up to the U.S.Supreme court it was to be about supporting laws for corporations, the owners, starting with Scalia’s band of lawyers , turning it all backwards and it is permeated with the ways and who want it the way it was back in the 1700 & 1800’s. I saw the 60’s as opportunity and now it is not and hasn’t been since the 80’s and workers comp was used as an inside job to get rid of the highest paid workers while piling up hordes of cash with the insurance companies/employers always wanting more.. yeah so their ideals just really meant they we’re just really greedy at everyone else’s expense., especially on the common folks backs. I see it as they accomplished it all very well.
      btw, I feel the void without David De Paolo

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  3. dinajpadillagmailcom

    I am reading his words and as long as there are those who think they’re especially entitled, they’ll be the ones to ruin it for everybody. I have no more illusions or expectations. Age does have its own insights, all though not necessarily its own rewards after fighting all of these years for justice in the ever crazy world of workers comp and the over all world of economics and its own manifestation, greed.
    I just worry now for my children and grandchildren and who ever comes after them as to what kind of world will be left to them.
    Thanks for the insight.

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