RALEIGH, N.C., April 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Injured workers, AARP members, volunteer firefighters and others arrived in droves today urging lawmakers to stand by the state's workers' compensation system, which delivers fair compensation to people hurt on the job at a low cost to employers.
The group sought face-to-face meetings with lawmakers to counter a flawed presentation by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) to the House Insurance Committee. The committee did not invite a response to WCRI's controversial point of view.
"WCRI has been paid to provide cover for insurance companies and corporations seeking government subsidies by shifting their expenses to taxpayers," said Dick Taylor of the NC Advocates for Justice. "WCRI is funded by insurance companies and big corporations, and routinely issues reports that support 'reforms' that will increase their contributors' profits."
In a recent contested report, WCRI claims the average payment per claim for injured workers in North Carolina is higher than in 15 other major states. That is misleading for a simple reason: in North Carolina, unlike other states, workers' comp doesn't cover many injuries sustained in the normal work routine. That means North Carolina has fewer claims than other states, cutting costs for employers.
The fair measure of workers' compensation costs in North Carolina is straightforward: Are employers' costs -- meaning the cost of their workers' comp insurance premiums -- out of line with other states?
They aren't. The cost of workers' comp insurance in North Carolina is and has been at or near the national average. Four months ago a study by the highly regarded Oregon State Department of Consumer and Business Services reported that North Carolina ranks twenty-third in the nation in the average cost to employers of workers' comp insurance.
We do even better in comparison with the states in WCRI's study. Eight (California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin) of the sixteen states have higher costs to employers than North Carolina, and one (Michigan) has identical costs. Each of these states, according to WCRI, pays lower benefits to its injured workers. In other words, in contrast to the other WCRI states, North Carolina delivers fair compensation to injured workers at low cost to employers.
That may be one reason why Site Selection Magazine has ranked North Carolina in nine out of the last 10 years as the best place in the country to do business.
Injured workers and others arrived at the General Assembly as corporations and insurance companies are lobbying lawmakers to cut help to injured workers. Under their proposals, even if a worker is injured on the job and continues to be totally disabled, his or her workers' compensation will end after an arbitrary number of weeks.
Consider what happens then. Most disabled workers will end up on Social Security, SSI Disability, Medicare, Medicaid or Food Stamps. And the costs insurance companies have been paying will be shifted onto taxpayers.
And while injured workers already have fewer privacy rights than our state's prisoners, insurance lobbyists want to strip them of all medical privacy rights. This would allow insurance adjusters and insurance company attorneys to secretly talk to the injured worker's doctors.
In October 2010, Public Policy Polling asked registered voters if they favored cutting off benefits to disabled workers after 500 weeks. The idea was opposed by Liberals (78%), Moderates (67%) and Conservatives (60%); and by Democrats (72%), Republicans (62%) and Independents (56%).
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SOURCE NC Advocates for Justice