GREENSBORO, N.C., April 7, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A pending bill to reform workers' compensation laws in North Carolina severely slashes benefits for injured workers, eliminates their medical choice and privacy and puts greedy insurance companies in control of workers' compensation.
House Bill 709 would leave injured workers, including those with current workers' compensation claims, financially devastated and without access to necessary medical treatment. It would take away an injured person's right to choose their doctor and give employers and insurance companies unfettered access to patients' medical records, without consent. It would also shift the cost of caring for injured workers from employers and insurance companies to taxpayers.
The draconian bill, introduced Wednesday by Rep. Dale Folwell (R-Forsyth) in the N.C. General Assembly, is being backed by the insurance industry and big businesses. They stand to profit by cutting benefits to workers, according to the grassroots worker rights organization Protect N.C. Workers (www.ProtectNCWorkers.com).
House Bill 709 would:
- Force injured workers to see a doctor chosen by the insurance company, not the best doctor to treat their injuries
- Make it virtually impossible for injured workers to change doctors or consult a specialist while on workers' compensation
- Take away an injured worker's benefits if he or she disagrees with the treatment plan devised by the insurance company's doctor
- Cut off compensation for lost income and medical care after 9 years, even for people so severely injured they will never be able to work again.
- Give employers, insurance companies and their attorneys the right to talk with an injured worker's doctors and access ALL medical records without the patient's knowledge or consent, a clear violation of privacy
- Force injured workers back to work in low-paying jobs that the insurance company deems "suitable"
- Shift the cost of caring for injured workers to the taxpayers through programs like Social Security Disability, Medicaid and Medicare
"This effort to destroy the workers' compensation system in North Carolina amounts to little more than a bailout for insurance companies and large self-insured businesses looking for ways to raise their profits at the expense of injured workers," said Dan Deuterman, president of The Deuterman Law Group in downtown Greensboro and a supporter of Protect N.C. Workers.
"If the insurance lobby and the bill's sponsors are successful in pushing this legislation through without public input or debate, workers will pay the price," Deuterman said. "It will become harder for people who suffer serious on-the-job injuries to qualify for workers' comp. The system wouldn't adequately provide the lifelong medical care and financial support injured workers need and deserve. Injured and disabled workers will be forced to turn to taxpayer-funded programs like Social Security Disability, Medicare and Medicaid to cover their ongoing medical bills and provide for their families. And injured workers will lose all rights to medical privacy."
Sponsors have positioned H709 as a jobs bill, but there's no truth in their rhetoric that North Carolina's current workers' compensation system is costing the state jobs. North Carolina has been rated as one of the best states to do business in numerous independent rankings.
Backers of H709 are using rhetoric and faulty, biased research to hoodwink legislators and the public into believing that workers' compensation costs here are too high and they're hurting North Carolina's competitiveness.
On Tuesday, members of the N.C. House Committee on Insurance heard testimony from the executive director of the Workers Compensation Research Institute that workers' comp costs in North Carolina are higher than in other states.
The WCRI claims to be independent and unbiased, but it receives most of its funding by the insurance industry and big businesses, the same groups that also provide its data on workers' compensation. In addition, WCRI's findings are statistically invalid because they're based on a non-random sampling of 16 states handpicked by the WCRI.
Dr. Sat N. Gupta, a professor of mathematics and statistics at UNCG, reviewed the WCRI's research methods on behalf of Protect N.C. Workers.
"A fundamental principle of statistical inference is that the sample be selected randomly," Dr. Gupta said. "In the present case, that requirement seems to be seriously violated. It is not a random sample, so results...cannot be relied upon."
Public opinion research shows the majority of North Carolina voters do not support changing workers' compensation laws or limiting benefits for injured workers. When asked in 2010 by Public Policy Polling if they favored cutting off benefits to disabled workers after 9-1/2 years, 66 percent of registered voters said no. Agreement on that point cut across party lines and political ideology. Liberals (78 percent), moderates (67 percent) and conservatives (60 percent) and Democrats (72 percent), Republicans (62 percent) and Independents (56 percent) all said they didn't support capping benefits at 500 weeks or fewer than 10 years.
The Deuterman Law Group has launched a grassroots campaign, Protect N.C. Workers, to educate the public and elected officials about House Bill 709. Voters can learn more at the Web site www.protectncworkers.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/protectncworkers or by calling toll-free (855) BAD-BILL. Voters are encouraged to contact Gov. Bev Perdue and their state senators and representatives in Raleigh and tell them to vote no on H709. Contact information for elected officials may be found at www.protectncworkers.com
More on workers' compensation reform can be found at the N.C. Personal Injury Law Advocate blog at blog.deutermanlaw.com
SOURCE Protect N.C. Workers