A recent media investigation into nationwide changes in injured workers' insurance prompted the federal Department of Labor to study the allegations. The resulting report has sparked calls for federal oversight of the largely state-operated insurance programs. Apparently, the study of workers' compensation revealed that over 30 states, including California, have made drastic changes to their programs. Some states place workers at risk of poverty if they become injured on the job.
This is not the first time a study has shown serious discrepancies among the states, but some lawmakers feel this report is a wakeup call. Without federal regulations, each state sets its own standard for benefits. One state may pay benefits that are hundreds of thousands of dollars less than benefits for the same injury in another state. Due to budget cuts, several states have slashed workers' compensation benefits, leaving the insurance program no choice but to deny payment for surgeries, procedures or medical devices a worker's doctor orders.
To facilitate the budget cuts, some states have increased the burden of proof a worker must meet to qualify for benefits. Others have created more red tape to complicate the procedure, which may cause an injured employee to drop the claim out of frustration. The DOL study found that some workers end up losing their homes to pay for necessary medical procedures or long-term care workers' compensation did not adequately cover.
The DOL hopes its report will prompt exploration of ways to reduce workplace injuries and help those with disabling injuries return to their jobs. The most crucial change they hope will result from the report is national guidelines for minimum standards so that workers are provided for after an injury. For now, injured workers in California are fortunate to have experienced workers' compensation attorneys to help them claim the benefits they deserve for their suffering and lost wages.
Source: propublica.org, "U.S. Labor Department: States Are Failing Injured Workers", Michael Grabell, Oct. 5, 2016