Want to work in a state with opt-out workers' compensation?

A reinventing of workers' compensation insurance in some states too often results in greatly reduced benefits for injured workers.

Workers' compensation programs have been under attack across the country. While Pennsylvania workers still have access to a robust system, there is a creeping movement in many states to cut back or entirely remove the protections that a workers' compensation insurance system provides to injured workers.

A recent series of reports by ProPublica and NPR have highlighted these developments, which has gone largely ignored throughout the nation, except, of course, by the injured workers who suffer the dual injuries of being hurt on the job and then being further injured by the system that is supposed to protect them from those original injuries.

The picture painted by the reports was frightening. In a few states, workers' compensation programs have been almost eliminated or so changed that they barely resemble a genuine workers' compensation program.

Self-insured workers' comp plans may be very different

They detail how some states allow companies to opt-out of traditional workers' compensation insurance and self-insure. These companies are allowed to virtually write their own policies, often creating rules and requirements that greatly disadvantage injured workers.

Some require workers to report an injury by the end of their shift or forfeit any right to coverage. This means if a worker is hurt during the day but believes that the injury is not serious, if they are wrong, they are stuck dealing with the consequences of the injury on their own.

While only Texas and Oklahoma have set up this type of opt-out system, other states are considering such an action. And there are many who would benefit financially from such a system, and they are working to expand their operations, touting the benefits to employers of lower insurance costs.

This is unsurprising, as the cost savings of paying fewer claims, paying less for the claims and paying those claims that are approved for shorter periods mean lower insurance costs and greater profits for employers.

The injuries do not go away

But the workers are still injured and with less effective medical treatment or no treatment at all, workers are forced to return to work and perhaps suffer another injury or aggravate their unhealed injuries.

The irony is that the injured workers and federal taxpayers will end up paying for the supposed "savings" generated by alternative procedures to traditional workers' compensation benefits. When these injured workers have exhausted their reduced "insurance" benefits provided by their employers and are still injured, they may be unable to return to work or may suffer so many absences from work that they are eventually fired.

At that point, a program like Social Security Disability Insurance may be their only option. And the U.S. taxpayer will wind up with the bill for the inadequate medical treatment and lack of effective workers' compensation insurance coverage.

Pennsylvania still has a healthy workers' compensation system and even within that system, there can be many challenges for injured workers. If you need assistance with a claim, the attorneys at Wolf, Baldwin & Associates can assist with your claim and help you to receive the benefits you need.