Report: Workers’ Compensation Covers One-Fifth of Medical CostsMarch 19, 2015
A report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration showed that state-run workers’ compensation programs cover only 21 percent of medical costs and lost wages from work-based injuries. The report also showed that taxpayers cover 16 percent of the costs from their payments into the Medicaid and Social Security systems, while private insurers cover another 13 percent. The workers themselves contribute the remaining 50 percent out of their own pockets.
States Slash Workers’ Compensation Funds
The report claims that changes in the workers’ compensation programs by state legislatures has shifted the burden of medical care from the employers to the workers. Some state legislators have claimed that reductions in the premium payments for workers’ compensation insurance required of employers as methods to attract more businesses to their states. The lower insurance premiums allow employers to shift the cost of worker injury claims to their private insurance providers and onto the workers themselves.
Mislabeling Employees Leads To Workers’ Compensation Claims
Another technique employers use to reduce their workers’ compensation claims is to label full-time employees as “independent contractors”. The study authors propose that the classification of employees as contractors allows employers to avoid providing workers’ compensation payments for those workers. The study also states that companies who classify their workers as independent contractors or temporary workers also increase the risk of job site injuries by reducing the incentives to provide a safe working environment.
Workers Compensation Cuts Harm Low-Wage Workers
The OSHA study showed that cuts to state workers compensation do the most damage to low-wage workers. The study found that many low-wage workers are afraid to file workers’ compensation claims for fear of losing their jobs. Many of the low-wage workers surveyed in the study were uneducated, unaware of their rights or understood little to no English. Others sought care through taxpayer-funded systems, such as Medicaid, Medicare or Veterans’ Benefits, rather than navigate the inefficient workers compensation system.
Illnesses Go Under-Reported In Workers’ Compensation Claims
Another startling statistic revealed how the workers’ compensation programs have failed to help those who suffer illnesses on the job. The study found that as many as 97 percent of workers who suffer job-related illnesses do not receive workers’ compensation payments. Many of these cases can go undiagnosed for years. Even when the worker receives a proper diagnosis, the difficulty lies in relating the illness to any on-the-job tasks. These illnesses can include forms of cancer that workers contract when exposed to specific substances.
Sources: Business Management Daily, OSHA
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