States are making it increasingly difficult for people to recover compensation for disabilities arising from workplace accidents or developed through the course of employment, according to a new investigation from ProPublica and NPR.
The article, titled The Demolition of Workers’ Comp and published March 4, found that since 2003, 33 states have passed legislation reducing benefits or tightening eligibility requirements for workers’ compensation benefits.
“Over the past decade, state after state has been dismantling America’s workers’ comp system with disastrous consequences for many of the hundreds of thousands of people who suffer serious injuries at work each year,” the article stated.
The feature provides an extensive history of workers’ compensation and the development of recent reforms, such as limitations on which doctors claimants can rely on to demonstrate their disabilities and provisions allowing insurers to reopen already established cases.
Insurance rates paid by employers into workers’ compensation rates are now the lowest they have been since the 1970s. Nationwide, the rate has dropped since 1988 from $3.42 to $1.85 for every $100 in worker’s wages.
As a result, the cost of providing for injured workers is increasingly being shifted from employers to taxpayers, through programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.
“The only interest that’s being protected here is industry,” said Judge John C. Gutierrez, a workers’ comp jurist for 22 years, in an interview a few hours after his retirement party in January. “I feel that their financial influence has had an impact on how this legislation came out.”
Workers, he said, “are losing their voice.”