Across the nation, many states are considering workers’ compensation reforms. As many states struggle with dwindling budgets and increasing costs, some are looking toward workers’ compensation benefits as a way to save money. Unfortunately when workers’ compensation benefits are targeted, the cost of caring for injured workers is shifted to either the worker or the taxpayer. This is an ongoing problem in our society and one that every person should be concerned about.
In North Carolina, legislature is considering another workers’ compensation reform, the second in six years which would limit the benefits available to injured workers. One issue which is heavily debated involves the elimination of lifetime disability benefits, to be replaced with a limit of 9 ½ years of benefits. Although there are many proponents of the proposed changes in North Carolina, the state currently ranks lower in workers’ compensation premiums than other states which have recently approved workers’ compensation reforms. This includes the states of New York, Pennsylvania, California, Texas and South Carolina.
As stated in an article appearing on Auto-Mobi.info, “Elizabeth Crum, deputy secretary for compensation and insurance in the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, concedes that reforms in Pennsylvania have only had a ‘subtle’ effect on workers’ comp premiums in that State. Crum says the workers’ comp dollar has gone up due to utilization review.”
When workers’ compensation benefits are cut, the burden is then shifted from the workers’ compensation system to other systems funded by taxpayer money to cover the costs of treating workers who have been injured on the job. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Disability programs often absorb the cost of caring for injured workers. If benefits are unavailable through these programs, workers may turn to unemployment or go untreated due to the lack of financial resources.
Workers are encouraged to become familiar with the benefits currently available in their state and to pay close attention to proposed changes. The time to make your voice heard is prior to reforms which strip workers of benefits, not after an injury when you discover you have limited resources to deal with lost wages and medical expenses.