Tennessee planned to pass legislation which makes it possible for ‘low risk’ companies to opt out of state-mandated workers’ compensation coverage. The legislation would allow private-sector employers to create their own policies and self-funded injury benefit programs, replacing the coverage offered under state law. However, the Advisory Council on Workers’ Compensation has unanimously voted against the “Tennessee Option” bill, choosing to wait for an assessment of the outcomes of similar moves in Texas and Oklahoma. On the other hand, we have employers, Walmart, Nordstrom and Safeway and others, lobbying hard to make sure that workers who are injured on the job cannot access wages and medical care, in the form of workers’ compensation across multiple states.
It is natural for employers to seek ways to save money, especially when they feel that their business is at low risk for workers compensation claims. Others believe that an opt-out option will require the states to create a new branch of government that will establish standards and provide oversight and investigation, and with that comes increased costs to taxpayers. Sceptics also fear that employers and insurers together will refute valid claims, forcing the injured worker to pursue lengthy and expensive litigation as the only means of receiving justified benefits.
Given a choice to opt-out from state-mandated coverage, can we expect employers to change their benefits plans to the detriment of the interests of the workers? Will there be an increase in the number of claims that are disqualified based on the terms of the ‘customized’ plans? It is difficult to say. Employers point to the numerous highly publicized cases in which workers were granted claims, and then found to be running marathons, playing golf, or engaging in strenuous “under the table” work.
So, the questions one has to ask are probably these: Is the existing workers compensation program broken? Can it be improved, or do we want to do away with workers’ compensation? Could a blended program in which “low risk” companies replace State-administrated workers compensation with their own plans improve the situation, or make it worse? Ultimately, who is responsible for supporting those who were injured in the course of their duties for an employer?
Whatever the outcome, any changes to the existing structure will take time. What should employers do today to prevent Workers’ Compensation Benefits from becoming a drain on their profitability? DCR encourages all companies to adopt some of the following measures:
Analyze the causes of any incidents which threaten the safety of the workplace and eliminate the possibility by instituting corrective measures.
The most effective way to control workers compensation costs is to reduce the number of claims. Following the steps suggested above make it possible for a company to manage costs while also increasing operational efficiency and worker satisfaction. If you are a staffing agency whose worker is asked to report to a client’s workplace, you and the client who has retained your services are jointly liable for the safety of the worker. Do make sure that:
For any employer, managing an injury claim starts with preventing injuries that result in claims, avoiding unjust claims, and minimizing administrative costs fighting valid claims.
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