Friday, September 16, 2011

MO - Tough Choices Need to be Made

Missouri is getting a tough lesson in the unforeseen consequences of artificial caps where flexibility could have provided protection against volatile economic issues.

Like many states Missouri has a Second Injury Fund that had a good intention - provide incentive to employers to employ the previously disabled without worrying if a work injury would make the employer solely liable for the consequences of compound disability.

In recent years, payments into the fund have decreased due to legislative changes that capped the surcharges paid by employers on workers’ compensation policies at 3%, along with a drop in workers’ compensation premiums – which decreased the base for the surcharges.

In fiscal year 2007, the fund received $70 million from the surcharges. In fiscal year 2011, the amount was $40.4 million. As a result of the declining revenues, the fund is unable to pay injured workers the benefits they have been awarded.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry reports the unpaid liability to workers with permanent total disability awards increased from $4.9 million in July to $7.1 million as of Sept. 1. More than 100 injured workers are waiting for benefits awarded to them, and more than 30,000 workers are waiting to have their cases considered by the fund, the chamber said.

The Chamber wants the law changed to provide benefits and/or adjudicate those cases pending, so there isn't a spike of assessments against employers later on down the road when the fund eventually goes bust.

“Right now, Missouri is just sitting back while cases continue to mount, and injured workers go without the benefits awarded to them,” Daniel Mehan, president and chief executive officer of the chamber said in a statement to WorkCompCentral on Monday. “It’s bad public policy and in the end, Missouri employers are going to be holding the bill.”

Another business group though opposes any increase in assessments whatsoever, contending that the problems with the fund stem from inadequate controls and excess spending.

"We believe the problem is one of spending" rather than a revenue shortfall, 
Nathan Dampf, spokesman for Associated Industries told WorkCompCentral on Tuesday. Employers pay into the fund, but the state spends the money -- and is responsible for defending the fund against using the fund to pay for benefits not originally contemplated, he said.

Because the state hasn't been effective in defending the fund, businesses should not be required to pay more to continue it, Dampf said.

And even thought the state legislature is in special session to deal with left over business from the regular legislative year, the fund isn't a topic on the agenda.

Someone, somewhere in Missouri, will have a bill to pay at some point in time. The state's legislature has a bit of a problem on its hands and in the meantime over 30,000 workers await something, anything, to happen so they can move on with their lives.


As a segue, if you have any responsibility for advertising or marketing I urge you to check out the blog of our Advertising Sales Director, Christina Childers, as she imparts lessons from the Information Age relevant to sales and marketing. This month she challenges the reader to examine their social media strategy.

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