The workers' compensation system was created to ensure the quick delivery of benefits so an injured worker may return to work, once healed, in the quickest time possible. The system was first created through an agreement between workers and employers. The workers agreed to give up their right to sue their employers in a traditional court of law, and the employers agreed to pay the injured workers’ medical bills and a portion of their wages until recovered from the work accident.
In recent decades, the purpose of the workers’ compensation system has been undermined by special interests groups in favor of the insurance carriers. The workers’ compensation systems in a majority of the States, especially here in Florida, have been continually dismantled in favor of the insurance companies and to the detriment of the injured workers. This dismantling of the law has created a system where virtually every single injured worker must obtain representation to protect themselves and to combat the unnecessary delays by insurance carriers which end up drastically increasing the worker’s recovery time.
Investigations by ProPublica and NPR have found some of the cutbacks have been so drastic that injured workers are virtually guaranteed to slide into poverty simply by having an injury at work. The changes in the law have allowed insurance carriers to continue their tactics of delaying or denying surgeries, prescriptions, or additional treatment recommended by the claimant’s authorized treating physician.
ProPublica notes some significant findings from their study:
The insurance carriers' and large corporations' traditional argument in support of “reforming” the workers’ compensation system is the costs and premiums for workers’ compensation are “out of control.” However, the sad truth of the whole situation is the rates employers presently pay for workers’ compensation insurance are the lowest since the 1970’s, yet this is apparently still too high for the insurance carriers and employers. In fact, the investigations by ProPublica and NPR discovered in 2013, insurance carriers had their most profitable year in over a decade, earning an 18% profit (far and above the 2013 average profit of 7.6%, according to the Washington Post).
The one thing never discussed in all of these arguments on the alleged high cost of workers’ compensation is who ends up footing the bill when these employers and carriers save money with the so-called “reforms”. The answer is us, the American tax payers. The removal of benefits for injured workers forces them to turn to Social Security Disability, Medicare, and Medicaid for the lost wages and medical costs which should be covered through workers’ compensation. Despite all of these costs falling on the shoulders of the tax payer, the federal government still refuses to monitor state workers’ compensation laws to avoid these costs becoming the burden of the tax payers.
If you or your loved ones have been affected by the reduction of benefits for injured workers in the Florida workers’ compensation system, please find and contact your State Representative or Senator of your district and find and contact your US Representative and Senator for your district. The only way we can be proactive against further harm to injured workers from the current system is to work together to inform our State Representatives and Senators of the true impact of their decisions in the lives of their constituents.
For information on the ProPublica and NPR investigations and a brief history on the workers’ compensation system in the US see The Demolition of Workers Compensation
For Help locating and contacting your representative: