Category Archives: Workers’ Compensation Reform

‘Workers’ Comp Industrial Complex’ Cost-Containment Measures Harm Workers

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The National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo in November featured a party with an acrobat, Hummer limos and a live alligator named Spike. Another workers' comp conference in August hosted a concert by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. (Clockwise from top left: Michael Grabell/ProPublica, Artemis Emslie via Twitter, Tom Kerr via Twitter, Jamie Gassmann via Twitter)

The National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo in November featured a party with an acrobat, Hummer limos and a live alligator named Spike. Another workers’ comp conference in August hosted a concert by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. (Clockwise from top left: Michael Grabell/ProPublica, Artemis Emslie via Twitter, Tom Kerr via Twitter, Jamie Gassmann via Twitter)

It is the beginning of a new legislative year in the United States. State legislatures will face the latest versions of “reforms” to workers’ compensation laws from business and insurance interests. They will renew their annual claims that the proposals benefit workers while coincidentally lowering or containing costs for employers and insurers. I wish these people would be honest about their real intentions. Cut the **** or to quote Monday Night Football: “COME ON MAN!”

A recent expose on the “workers’ comp industrial complex,” is a must read for all who care about injured workers and their rights. ProPulica author Michael Grabell describes the   “workers’ comp industrial complex” as a loose association of insurance and business groups and cost-containment companies, which are being bought and sold for billions of dollars in profits. Meanwhile, workers and their representatives fight endless legislative battles to prevent more benefits reductions and added obstacles to collecting those benefits. 

“… Over the past two decades, a cottage industry of middlemen has emerged, which some have dubbed the ‘workers’ comp industrial complex.’ Even private equity firms have bought in, seeing profit opportunities in employers’ and insurers’ quest to contain spending.

“The middlemen offer an array of services, from managing claims to negotiating medical bills, all promising to reduce costs — although critics say some actually raise them, as well as the burden on those hurt on the job.”

This ProPublica article shows the HUGE business opportunities some see in workers’ compensation. But these efforts will not help the injured worker, because cost containment means reduced benefits, stalling, denied claims, and working the system to delay, all at the expense of the injured worker and often his or her long-term health.

Respected workers’ compensation commentator David DePaolo, writes a column called “DePaolo’s Work Comp World” at workcompcentral.com, a website that bills itself as “Workers’ Compensation Education, Courses, News and Information.”

One of his recent articles, titled “Stop The Fantasy,” takes the notion of cost containment to task, and he also writes his views on the state of how “the media” cover workers’ compensation.

“Workers’ compensation should not be mysterious, should not be hiding, and should be exposed to the public good or bad, because it is for the public – each and every person that works in this country should be afforded reasonable work injury protection. It’s good social policy. It’s good economic policy.”

This focused quote from DePaolo’s commentary regards the “workers compensation industrial complex” that ProPublica took to task, where DePaolo really questions the need for and philosophy of this part of the workers’ compensation system.

“Cost containment is an apt term if we, as an industry, are willing to accept its definitional reality – that the intent of cost containment is to save money for those who are paying it out,” DePaolo wrote in his article.

“Let’s stop with the fantasy that cost containment is for the benefit of injured workers. It’s not. Otherwise it would be called something else. That cost containment paradoxically results in medical treatment that should cause better outcomes is not the paramount reason for these businesses.

“We all know that – so let’s stop trying to pretend that it is something which it is not.

“If the services are intended to benefit injured workers then there should be a better term for those services that should reflect that beneficial treatment,

“Maybe we’re misunderstood. Maybe our good intentions aren’t appreciated.

“But maybe cost containment really is an accurate term – and at whose expense?” 

Cost containment appears to be both big business and big money, from the extensive ProPublica article. Here are two paragraphs that explain the spoils that people could win or received at just one of the “more than 150 workers’ comp conferences a year.” 

“… For three days in November, hundreds of vendors wooed insurers and employers with lavish after-hours parties, giveaways of designer handbags, photos with Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug, and free rides in orange Hummer limousines. … Vendors gave away Apple watches, bottles of bourbon, and a Vespa scooter. There were free massages and shoeshines, a superhero caricature artist, more than one mentalist, and a live alligator named Spike.”

After all this excitement, the ProPublica article explains how much of workers’ compensation premiums that insurers in California spent on overhead – 36 percent – and how “the amount of money that insurers spend on medical cost containment programs has more than doubled from $197 million in 2005 to $471 million in 2014, according to the state workers’ comp ratings bureau.”

Some people involved in the fancy exposition included the following, quoted from ProPublica.

“There were companies that provide networks of doctors and companies that review medical bills, firms that provide expert medical opinions and firms that specialize in complex claims. There were defense lawyers, data processing firms, rehab facilities, surveillance companies, outside claims shops, occupational medicine clinics, pain management services, translators, schedulers, headhunters and associations promoting other conferences.

“There were labs that test injured workers’ urine for illegal drugs. There were even labs that test urine to ensure workers are taking the prescribed drugs instead of selling them.”

Now, because of the profit potential in “cost containment” (this is a phrase that should make people groan, as I did), “private equity firms have gone on a buying spree,” according to ProPublica, resulting in little-known players outside the workers’ compensation system becoming “powerful players in determining the future of how injured workers are treated.” 

“Increasingly, though, decisions to deny care aren’t being made by workers’ employers or insurers, but by these myriad claims administrators, managed care companies and cost-containment firms. Some industry observers say the firms have added a layer of cold bureaucracy to an already complicated system,” according to the ProPublica article.

I could provide more quotes and details from the articles, but as I wrote initially in this post, both the ProPublica and DePaolo’s articles are essential reading material for those who care about workers, how society treats workers, and who helps workers, especially when they’re injured. Because the system that’s supposed to help those who get hurt at work, workers’ compensation, is often bloated, confusing, and full of those (like folks working in cost containment) whose focus isn’t necessarily to either help injured workers heal, get back to work, or move on with their lives, but muddle the process instead.

We cannot match the resources of the “workers’ comp industrial complex,” but our cause to serve injured workers by getting them the prompt, quality medical treatment they need and deserve is just, and we must keep fighting the good fight!

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Insurance, insurance regulation, Money, Workers' Compensation, Workers' Compensation Reform and tagged , , , , , , .

Workers’ Compensation ‘Reforms’ by State Have Costs, Too

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This ProPublica/NPR series should be required reading for all who care about workers’ compensation and how the process really works – or doesn’t work – for those who are injured on the job. The series shows the very real cost to loved ones when the system doesn’t hold up to the workers’ compensation “grand bargain” that was entered into more than a century ago in many states, including Nebraska. Families are hurt economically, and necessary role changes occur when a spouse and/or children become caretakers, which is often the case. 

Today’s blog post is focused on an excellent and informative, but very sobering, interactive chart that looks at how workers’ compensation “reforms” by state are occurring.

I found the introductory paragraph for the chart enlightening and honest:

“Over the past decade, states across the country have been unwinding a century-old compact with America’s workers: A guarantee that if you are injured on the job, your employer will pay your medical bills and enough of your wages to help you get by. In all, 33 states have passed laws that reduce benefits, create hurdles to getting medical care or make it more difficult to qualify for workers’ comp.”

When benefits are reduced and medical care is denied, the burden of caring for injured workers shifts to taxpayers through social programs because the workers’ compensation system has all too often come up short. This results in taxpayers subsidizing injured workers on the local and state levels through healthcare and the social safety net. At the same time, workers’ compensation insurance premiums for businesses are at their lowest rate in 25 years, partially because the “reformed” workers’ compensation systems can save businesses money while avoiding the costs of caring for these hurt workers.

I urge you to spend some time on the interactive graphic and see where your state stands in its support of injured workers. Although the firm’s lawyers are licensed in Nebraska and Iowa, we work with many who are injured in other states as the need arises and have an extensive network of lawyers who we work with on workers’ compensation, especially focusing on representing truck drivers.

This blog will feature continued commentary and analysis on the ProPublic/NPR report, as was first addressed last week. But if you have specific questions about an injured worker’s situation and need help or are unsure what the next steps are, please contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney like those at Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Workers' Compensation Reform and tagged , , , , , , .

Examining Workers’ Compensation Costs to Employers

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey 1991 - 2014 (Credit: Sisi Wei/ProPublica)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey 1991 – 2014 (Credit: Sisi Wei/ProPublica)

Business and insurance interests are bombarding state legislatures every day of the week to take workers’ rights away by complaining how most states’ workers’ compensation systems are too expensive.

Recently, ProPublica and NPR produced a very detailed explanation of the state of workers’ compensation, focusing, rightly so, on injured workers. This article, which was the first in the series, included an interactive graphic that showed that even though business are complaining about rising premius, workers’ compensation insurance coverage is generally at its lowest rate in 25 years, “even as the costs of health care have increased dramatically,” according to the article.

As examples, using the average premium cost to the employer per $100 of workers’ wages, Nebraska employers paid $1.93 in 1988, while they actually paid $.15 less for the premium in 2014, for a total of $1.78 per $100 of workers’ wages, according to the chart. Iowa was more dramatic, with the price of workers’ compensation insurance $2.79 per $100 of workers’ wages in 1988. It went down $.91 to $1.88 per $100 of workers’ wages in 2014.

By scrolling down in the article, a person finds another graphic that shows how employer costs have risen for other categories, but have fallen for workers’ compensation. Most notably, the cost of workers’ compensation insurance coverage (per $100 of workers’ wages) went from $2.71 in 1991 to $2.00 in 2014. During the same timeframe, the cost of health insurance went from $8.55 to $12.52 and the cost of retirement benefits went from $5.50 to $7.29, all per $100 of workers’ wages, according to the chart in the article.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), and the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA).  We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Government, Iowa, Legislation, Nebraska, Workers' Compensation, Workers' Compensation Reform and tagged , , , .

2013: Centennial Year for Workers’ Compensation in Nebraska

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100 Years of Nebraska Workers’ Compensation

The year 2013 will mark 100 years of workers’ compensation law in Nebraska. This state was a leader in adopting the new protections and benefits for workers. The first workers’ compensation laws in the United States were enacted two years earlier, and few states had followed by 1913. Workers’ compensation laws were hailed as social progress, if not outright human-rights triumphs. Nebraska was a leader in protecting workers’ rights. Much has changed since then.

 

The current workplace is not the workplace that existed 100 years ago. The jobs then were much more physically demanding and dangerous. The injuries and diseases are not the same. Repetitive-motion injury was not contemplated or compensated. Cancer from industrial solvents was not contemplated or compensated. Mental disease was stigmatized by society and essentially not compensated. Medical practice was less specialized, and treatment options were much more limited.

 

Interested parties have long been working to keep the law in sync with the times. The law has changed from time to time, but some of the bedrock concepts, such as requiring “accident” have resulted in some rules that lawyers call legal fictions, for instance. Medical benefits that experts consider the most basic protection are the most costly part of the system, and cost increases are an area of constant concerns.

 

Competing legislation is presented each year with incremental changes resulting. The last major revisions happened 20 years ago. The annual arguments sometimes get heated, but the law seems to advance. The big picture is something we can be proud of.

 

Nebraska law has the highest rating of any state under presidential-commission guidelines established in 1972. Premiums and costs are in the mid-range of the states, as are worker benefits. Nebraska is rated as the 2nd-best state legal climate by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Nebraska is one of few states that has robust vocational rehabilitation benefits for injured workers. Hopefully we can continue working together to maintain and improve Nebraska’s workers’ compensation law in ways that benefit all of the competing interests.

 

Bottom-line conclusion: Nebraska law is doing well for a centenarian. Let’s keep cooperating to ensure progress.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Court, history of workers' compensation, Reforms, Tort Reform, Workers' Comp' Basics, Workers' Compensation, Workers' Compensation Reform and tagged , , .

Death By Overwork – Is It Compensable?

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Overworked

Dangerously long working hours are a problem around the world.

Workers’ compensation laws exist in virtually all industrial countries. Our respected colleague Jon Gelman from New Jersey provides an interesting article on Japanese law. Issues in the United States are similar and change as the workplace changes. Japan provides workers’ compensation death from overwork because prolonged extremely long work weeks are so common. As American work weeks get longer, perhaps we will see similar developments.

Since the 1960s there has been serious social concern over health problems due to long working hours in Japan. Around that time the term Karoshi, or “death from over work,” became known. Recent national statistics show that more than 6 million people worked for 60 hours or more per week during years 2000 and 2004.

Approximately three hundred cases of brain and heart diseases were recognized as labour accidents resulting from overwork (Karoshi) by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) between 2002 and 2005. Consequently, the MHLW has been working to establish a more appropriate compensation system for Karoshi, as well as preventive measures for overwork related health problems.

In 2001, the MHLW set the standards for clearly recognizing Karoshi in association with the amount of overtime working hours. These standards were based on Continue reading

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Workers' Compensation, Workers' Compensation Reform and tagged .

Attorneys Advocate for Workers through WILG

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Pictured at the WILG Board of Directors’ meeting are Paul McAndrew (Iowa), Hank Patterson (North Carolina) and Rod Rehm (Nebraska).

Rod Rehm and Jon Rehm recently traveled to Washington, D.C., for the Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG) Board of Directors’ Meeting and Legislation Day on April 17. Rod has served as a board member of this organization for 15 years, and he strongly supports this group. The attorneys were advocating for workers by lobbying Congress to improve the system for federal employees and all workers on Social Security who settle their workers’ compensation cases. Rod and Jon met with key representatives from Illinois as advocates for workers on the national level through WILG.

Here’s WILG’s mission statement:

“Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group is the national non-profit membership organization dedicated to representing the interests of millions of workers and their families who, each year, suffer the consequences of workplace injuries and illnesses. The group acts principally to assist attorneys and non-profit groups in advocating the rights of injured workers through education, communication, research, and information gathering.”

We encourage all lawyers who are serious about representing injured workers to join WILG.

Rod also spoke for workers at the Nebraska Breakfast, a weekly tradition since 1943. “The Nebraska Breakfast, now in its sixth decade, is the oldest and only ongoing state gathering for constituents on Capitol Hill,” according to the Nebraska Society of Washington, D.C.’s web site. All five members of the Nebraska Congressional Delegation were in attendance at that Wednesday’s breakfast. Following the breakfast, Rod discussed the legislation with Sens. Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns as well as Congressman Lee Terry.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Workers' Compensation Reform and tagged , , , .

Your Employer May Be Committing Workers’ Compensation Fraud – Here’s How to Tell

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Your Employer May Be Committing Fraud

Today’s post comes to us from our colleague Len Jernigan of North Carolina. We feel strongly that employer workers’ compensation fraud is a widespread and costly problem. If you see fraud in your workplace in Nebraska, report it to Nebraska’s Attorney General on his website or by calling 402-471-2682 or if you see fraud in your workplace in Iowa, report it to Iowa’s Attorney General on his website or by calling 515-281-5164.

All employees should be on the lookout for signs that their employer or potential employer is engaging in workers’ compensation fraud.

The list of signs below was inspired by this one from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.

These signs may indicate that your employer is not paying workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. If they aren’t, this could put you in a very difficult situation if you are ever injured on the job.

If any of these signs sound familiar, report the employer to the Fraud Investigations Department of the North Carolina Industrial Commission and, if at all possible, find another job.

Your employer may be engaged in workers’ compensation fraud if:

  1. They pay you in cash and don’t give you any kind of payroll stub.
  2. They give you a 1099 form instead of the standard W-2.
  3. They pay you other than in cash or check, by such things as free rent, reimbursement of expenses, barter, etc.
  4. They pay you on a piecework basis and do not record hours. Continue reading
The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Fraud, Workers' Compensation, Workers' Compensation Reform and tagged , .