A poignant but stark article from Al Jazeera America from March of this year reports that the way Workers’ Compensation is currently operated in the U.S. formerly middle-class working people are often pushed into the sinkhole of poverty when they sustain an injury on the job.
The full article can be found here: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/3/4/federal-agency-workplace-injuries-are-exacerbating-income-inequality.html
On-the-job injuries and illnesses worsen income inequality because “they force working families out of the middle class and into poverty, and keep the families of lower-wage workers from entering the middle class,” according to a report issued Wednesday by the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The U.S. Labor Department has been pushing for an increase in amount and comprehensiveness of Workers’ Compensation benefits but there has been an unrelenting lobbying and public relations effort by the insurance industry to undermine and eliminate Workers’ Compensation systems throughout the country.
An investigative piece from ProPublica and NPR, also released on Wednesday, found that 33 states have cut workers’ compensation since 2003 by either tightening eligibility or reducing benefits. According to their report, “Florida has cut benefits to its most severely disabled workers by 65 percent since 1993.”
Thankfully New York has not been quite as negatively affected due in large part to strong advocacy against changes to the Workers’ Compensation system with many Workers’ Compensation law firms including Finkelstein, Meirowitz & Eidlisz have participated in (most notably the radical change to the New York comp system in 2007).
However, even in New York the wrenching truth is that we see too many of our most disadvantaged clients forced into landlord-tenant disputes and even into homelessness due to delays in benefits, denials of treatment, and more. Eventually FME is able to make things right in the vast majority of cases through reinstatement of retroactive benefits, getting treatments approved over against insurance company doctors, successfully pushing for penalties against insurance carriers who fail to pay or make late payments, and eventually negotiating lucrative settlements to close cases so our clients can move on.
Still, insurance carriers have the money, resources, and connections to push for ever dwindling protections for employees injured on the job–and to a large part they have been incredibly successful over the last few decades, especially in states like Texas which has effectively abolished mandatory Workers’ Compensation.
FME stays informed of legislative changes and will take action, as we have before, to keep our compensation system effective as a safety net for those who work hard and by no fault of their own get hurt in the process.