State workers’ compensation programs are catching the attention of legislators in Washington who have become concerned that these programs are not effectively providing the coverage and protection workers depend upon.
Raising the alarm, Democrats in the House and Senate have called upon the Department of Labor to increase federal scrutiny of state administered workers’ compensation programs. In particular, they are concerned that the opt out programs in states such as Texas and Oklahoma are a thinly veiled attempt to shift the responsibility of caring for injured workers away from state administered workers’ compensation programs and onto Social Security Disability Insurance or insurance policies offered under the Affordable Care Act.
“Workers depend upon the safety net workers’ compensation programs provide. Employers are required to pay into these programs to protect the workforce from both short and long-term injuries. As more states grant opt out exceptions, they are exposing workers to arbitrary guidelines and questionable coverage,” lamented Las Vegas workers’ compensation attorney George T. Bochanis.
The federal government does not have jurisdiction over state administered workers’ compensation programs, however, they can convene a commission and make recommendations designed to improve the function and efficiency of these programs. This was done in 1972, and indeed, many states adopted the commission’s recommendations. These included recommendations that required companies of all sizes provide workers’ compensation coverage, and that occupational related diseases such as mesothelioma be covered.
“Of primary concern in both Carson City and Washington is the cost and bureaucracy involved in the administration of workers’ compensation programs. Over the years, these costs have risen sharply which has had an impact on state budgets. Unfortunately, states such as Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and others are looking at opt out programs as a way to shift costs away from the state and onto the shoulders of the federal government will be decreased coverage and questionable,” commented Las Vegas workers’ compensation attorney George T. Bochanis.