Nationwide, big employers are using their political influence to eviscerate workers' compensation laws, shifting the cost of caring for the sick and disabled to the taxpayer. Their legislative allies call it “reform,” but in fact employers are paying the lowest rates for workers' compensation insurance coverage since the 1970s. Laws passed in 33 states since 2003 dramatically cut disability and medical benefits, and give employers the right to manage medical treatment, often guaranteeing that profoundly disabled workers will descend into poverty.
In some states, insurers can reopen old cases and deny medical coverage based on the opinions of doctors who have never seen the patient. Joel Ramirez, paralyzed in a warehouse accident, lost his right to a home health aide based on such a medical review. As a result, he can sit in his own feces for up to 8 hours a day.
A 2007 study demonstrates that workers' comp pays less than a third of injured workers’ medical costs and lost earnings. Who pays the rest? You do. Taxpayers step in to pay for the care of impoverished disabled employees through programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which shelled out approximately $30 billion dollars to fill part of the gap in 2007 alone. Health insurance, disability insurance, or savings filled in the rest.
For more information, read "The Demolition of Workers Comp," an investigative report by ProPublica.