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The race to the bottom

If you are a worker, beware politicians who argue that workers' compensation programs must be "reformed." What they really meant to say, is that workers' compensation programs must be cut. And those cuts will never benefit the workers who are injured.

In a state like Wisconsin, costs to employers for workers' compensation insurance have declined during the 25 years from 1988 to 2014. The cost went from $2.59 per $100 of wages paid to $1.92, a drop of $0.67. And this drop is effectively even greater than it appears, because $100 of workers' wages in 2014 had less value, due to the stagnation of workers income during that period and inflation.

 

And yet they want more.

And who really pays the price for all of these "savings?" Injured workers, who have suffered injuries at work, often due to the negligence of employers who are attempting to cut corners and skimp on safety.

The greatest cuts affect those most severely injured. For those workers are left to cope with their life-long injuries as wells as a bleak financial future, where they have lost the ability to work and earn income.

What happens to a worker who is left disabled, out of work and with inadequate or exhausted workers' compensation benefits? Often it is the government where they must turn. In many states, it means the federal government, as many states have cut assistance programs.

It is ironic that many of those who complain of the growth of the Social Security Disability (SSD) Insurance program fail to realize that deteriorating worker safety protections, workers' compensation and healthcare programs have probably led to more workers who are left with no other options but to apply for SSD.

 

Source: propublica.org, "The Demolition of Workers' Comp," Michael Grabell, ProPublica, and Howard Berkes, NPR, March 4, 2015

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