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Workers’ Compensation “Reforms” Are Hurting Injured Workers

According to a National Public Radio and ProPublica investigation, in recent years states across the country have been taking apart the workers’ compensation system. This has proven financially disastrous for the many workers who are seriously hurt on the job.

The reforms have reportedly been so drastic that they practically guaranteed that a seriously injured worker would have to struggle financially. Also, many injured workers and their families are now spending years fighting with insurers for the prescriptions, surgeries, and medical help that they need.

That’s why it is so important that now, more than ever, a worker who is injured on the job speak to a Boston workers’ compensation lawyer right away. You have benefits and rights to which you are entitled and they should be protected.

NPR says that the “reforms” being passed are typically brought through by insurance companies and big business touting out of control costs, even though employers are paying the lowest workers’ compensation insurance rates since the 1970s. Instead, it is the American taxpayers who are paying billions of dollars through Medicare, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Medicaid for medical bills and lost wages that are not covered by work injury benefits. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., after learning of NPR and ProPublica’s findings, said that the “reforms” have hurt the basic protections of workers.

By examining insurance industry data and confidential court and medical records, ProPublica found that since 2003, legislatures in over 30 states have passed workers’ comp laws that lowered benefits or made it harder for workers with certain diseases and injuries to qualify for said benefits. An injury may be worth more benefit-wise in certain states. For example, ProPublica noted, the maximum compensation for the loss of an eye in Pennslyvania is over $160K, while only around $27,280 in Alabama.

The independent nonprofit found that not only have a lot of states lowered the amount that injured workers’ are entitled to get, but also there may be arbitrary cutoff dates that have nothing to do with whether/not a worker has recovered. Also, in 37 states, workers are not allowed to choose their own doctors and must pick from a list generated by employers. This means that some workers are having their coverage terminated by doctors that never actually saw them before making an assessment.

For example, a California law instituted in 2012 was supposed to help workers who had been waiting to see doctors for months. Independent medical reviewers selected by a state contractor were added to the mix. Unfortunately, a lot of the doctors are licensed outside the state so they can only make their decisions based on medical records as opposed to actually seeing every patient. Their rulings, except in limited situations, cannot be overturned.

With Massachusetts workers’ compensation, workers give up their right to sue an employer in return for guaranteed benefits when there are injuries sustained at work. Families of loved ones killed in work-related incidents or afflicted by diseases contracted from their job are entitled to death benefits.

Please contact our Boston work injury lawyers today.

Injured Workers Suffer as ‘Reforms’ Limit Workers’ Compensation Benefits, NPR, March 4, 2015

The Demolition of Workers’ Comp, ProPublica, March 4, 2015

Workers’ Compensation, Mass.gov

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