Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Washington Defines Compromise

Washington is one of the few completely state run workers' compensation systems in the country - from setting rates, collecting premiums and administrating claims; everything is done by the state.

One of the basic tenets of the Washington system for a long time was that there were no lump sum settlements allowed. Most state systems allow settlement of claims via some full release mechanism.

In 2011 reform legislation allowed injured workers 55 and older to enter structured settlements, which the Department of Labor & Industries through its Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals would oversee to make sure that such settlements were adequate.

Next year the age limitation decreases to 50.

The Washington State Flag

Earlier this month the Washington state Court of Appeals ruled in BIIA v. South Kitsap School District – commonly called the Zimmerman case - that this provision applied only to claimants not represented by attorneys, and that the Board did not have jurisdiction over claims where an attorney represented the injured worker.

BIIA has approved just 10% of settlement agreements it has reviewed, according to officials with the state Department of Labor and Industries. Because fewer settlements than expected are being approved, L&I has reduced projected savings from the settlement provision to $140 million between fiscal years 2012 and 2015 from $545 million.

There are arguments for and against Washington's maternalistic overview of work injury settlements.

Those in favor of liberalizing availability of lump sum settlements point to system savings, arguing that being able to close claims releases cash that can go towards relieving some of the burden on employers.

Those against lump sum settlements say that they allow employers to take advantage of injured workers and their families at times of increased vulnerability.

Recently the Seattle Times editorial board said the Zimmerman case removes one obstacle to an effective program and that lawmakers should further reform the state's system to remove other prohibitions against lump-sum payments and settling medical claims.

“Potential for huge savings remains if age restrictions are eliminated and lump sums are permitted,” according to the editorial board. “One state estimate put potential savings at $1.2 billion over the first two years.”

The Washington State Labor Council said in opposition that the Times has always been against workers' compensation and that even when the system was created in 1911 the paper opined that it places a burden on all industries in the state that will put many out of business and prevent new businesses from entering the state.

Obviously that prognostication wasn't accurate.

I can't say whether the Labor Council's argument against lump sum settlements - that such settlements will increase employer gaming by taking advantage of vulnerable people - is accurate either.

When we look at statistics from states where lump sum settlements are allowed for unrepresented injured workers it is clear that they get less money than if they had attorneys; but most of these settlements are required to go through some administrative review process before they are approved, so there must be some meritorious adequacy to these agreements.

Ergo, I also believe there is some merit to the Times' argument that there could be significant savings if the settlement restrictions were liberalized.

Really it all comes down to a matter of culture. The Washington State culture seems, to me, to favor a more maternalistic participation of state in pretty much everything, not just workers' compensation.

How much the population actually understands workers' compensation and its financial underpinnings is another matter, but that's not the point.

According to the Labor Council, every county in the state in 2010 voted against privatization of Washington's work comp system, and that vote suggests that the people of the state don't trust the insurance industry or business when it comes to the population's health and welfare.

Last December L&I announced that premiums will increase for the first time in three years with a newly adopted 2.7% rate increase for 2014.

The department said the 2011 reforms reduced its costs, but it needs the increase primarily to rebuild a surplus account that was depleted in recent years because rates have not been in-line with the agency’s operational costs.

Washington also has a unique system in that workers pay a portion of comp premiums. As part of the premium hike, L&I increased the workers’ contributions by 1.7 cents per hour worked, accounting for about 25% of the 2014 premium increase, according to the department.

In addition, while wages increased in the state by an average of 3.4% last year, L&I did not see any additional revenue because premiums are based on hours worked and not payroll.

The department projected the 2014 rate increase would bring in about $55 million in additional premiums.

Employers point to this rate increase as demonstrative that the 2011 reform did not go far enough to put a check on costs.

And apparently employees, who participate in financing the system, are content with system costs as their representative voices have opposed any changes.

Seems to me that the state has it just about right - no one seems truly happy, and that's the definition of compromise that was taught me in law school.


  1. Number one, the VOCATIONAL service are no longer run by the STATE, they are done by privatized voc now. Our State Depts. Voc service, no longer really exist any more. NO MORE Training, or just selectively for those deemed worthy of retraining. The rest get sent to wipe grandpa's but now. And WE HAVE mistrust in WA Wokers Comp because folks are being allowed to lie to deny in our care.. THAT IS NOT Compromise that's Stealing with a cheeze eating grin.

  2. THE DIVIDE and the Roots to it in WA STATE, Just my two cents worth.

    Im cool with holistic medicine and natural medicine. But when it's used as Cost Containment Austerity Tool, by big insurance corps, to get out of their Duties to their customers? Then it's gone to far,

    and it still needs to be the patients choice, not the insurance co's and their bias gate keeping Dr.s.

    The patients need to be able to choose on Holistic or traditional care, or both if they want, but it should not be being forced on us as it is....

    IT's our way or the high way in our health care these days, and their willing to lie and omit the truth in order to deny,

    that's not health care, that's not being healers. It's being HATTERS towards those you feel are not worthy of your great time and gate keeping skills, for theses type of folks made all the wrong choices in life, so there fore they do not deserve any compassion in their care......

    PLAYING the DADDY DO GOODER role in our health care and lives? IS gooding more folks dead, than it is healthy lately it looks like to me?....

    It's JUST a TOOL for the elites to beat down on those that do not look like live like or have sex like they do. All Through our health care and workers comp systems now. YOUR NOT IN pain, your laying about your pain, and if you were not fat, lazy, ugly, and poor, and did not make all the wrong choices in life you would be just fine like all of us HEALTHY and WEALTHY folks.

    How about that,,,,,,,,,, America the Land of The Free.... Free to push your will and way of life onto others in a snobbish arrogant fashion. Sorry, so called "Do Gooders" but your marole holly than thou attitude in our health care, is getting patients DEAD, and even a few Do GOODERS here and there as well.... SO is stealing from our fellow man through Vudu medicine and Doctoring the Books, all to push a moral agenda and personal way of life on to folks REALLY WORKING OUT for all? Just asking. Or is it fostering the DIVIDE?

    All this is creating an attitude of indifference towards one another, that is leading some in our world to feel the others are some how "Less Human" than they themselves are. So there they have no DUTIES to care for those folks in their CARE or custody. .

    You See it is this air of arrogance that has allowed 10 folks to die at our local country jail, wrongfully, and the county/taxpers are being sued and having to pay millions of dollars for these tragic events. That if not for the air of indifference in our world, these tragic events would not have happened.

    The people need their CIVIL Stingers back to hold these insurance cost containment practices of big insurance companies under control. Other wise they just do what every they want or not want to do to us in our care.

    Im not bashing Ocare, I don;'t care if my care is free or I pay for it, if WE can not sue back when it harms US intently to save the corps bottom lines? Then none of the CARE IS WORTH A .......... Peace and have an awesome day.

    This is one major root to the problem, we have, and it ripples out into all of our affairs. i.e. folks putting other folks they know are sick, in to a locked cell and not looking back, and then some how thinking that, that logic, is some how justified and humane.. It's NOT no matter how you all try and spin it.

  3. We don't trust the insurance industry in WA, because simply IT"S DIRTY.

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  5. I can never expect some one who galavants around the country in his private plane. Attending his kids at their finer schools of education. To actually ever understand and see things from the ABUSED WORKERS point of view. Sorry but when folks are ending up dead and hanging from ceilings and going on mass shooting rampages?. THEN that's not compromise sir. THAT IS oppression of one group by another group, all through our insurance industries. THIS all used to be done with out any one knowing much about it happening, but thanks to the NET, THESE ABUSES OF the Laboring force through our Workers comp and HMO systems ARE GOING TO END. Or the ill ripple effects that pour out in to our communities is only going to get worse. WE CAN NOT ALLOW MEN IN SUITS TO STEAL from labor in this manor, and not expect it to come back and bite us all in the bottom one day.... ARE THE CORPORATE profits gained by gaming the injured workers in workers comp really worth the GREAT SOCIAL COST that it creates for us all? So sorry, Sir, but the WC system in WA STATE is any thing but a COMPROMISE. It's one side, and it's allow some elite folks to steal from other folks who worked hard all their lives. That's whats happening in WA WC Sir. OUR GRAND BARGAIN HAS BEEN sold out from underneath us. NO mater how you try and spin it.

  6. AT least there is one good thing happening for workers lately. It looks like God has even decided to side with the LABOR movement. That must mean us laborer are in the right on this issue. Sorry Suits. Even the big guy is on our side on this one. To bad he does not own our courts and legislators as well. Hmm? Peace

  7. I guess it's all based on ones perspective, Mine is that of one harmed and abused by folks who omitted the truth in my care to deny care, all for great comp rates. You see there are many folks out there that feel this workers comp system as is, is working just fine. That all this goodness and cost containment, will have a positive trickle down effect on our State's economy in the form of more jobs. WELL where are the jobs Sir? Labor keeps getting the takeaways, but ending up with no jobs, and dying from the delays and denials of care. The only folks making out on this Compromise, are the Corporations, on the backs of the aging injured workers. You sound a lot like this guy. He's a Dem, that does not like the trickle down theory for everything ells in our world, but seems to side with big biss and say that some how it does work in the work comp arena? How does it not work for everything ells in our world, but it does for workers comp some how? Hmmm? Perplexing Hey? Check out what this WA State Sen has to say, I think you will like his perspective, it seems match yours. If all is well with comp?... THEN WAY ARE folks dying from the wrongful delays and denials? NOT working, and intentionally broken, for some profit off it, as long as it remains broken. NO MORE Sir.. Peace and good day, and please do be sure to let the CORPORATE WORLD, that the days of abusing labor in Workers Comp, are coming to an end.

  8. You may want to check out what some REAL HONEST lawyers are coming and spilling the beans about what is really happening to workers in the Broken work comp systems across this country.

  9. We need more upstanding suits like these men, to come out and tell the TRUTH of how our comp system favors business while throwing the workers under the bus. WE NEED MORE GOOD men like these speaking the truth in our WORLD to step up, before we allow the oligarch's and their mouth pieces to ruin and destroy our world. YOU CAN NOT allow men to lie to deprive others who have paid the premiums for their care, along side their employers. And my employers paying their side of it, I CONSIDER THAT a part of my wages, so their for I Paid all the insurance premiums, that I now have men in suit's trying to cheat me out of.

    When we allow men to hide behind the law and steal from others, Then we are gonna have problems. IE look where our society is at today. Go ahead and protect the robber Barron's of today, will see who ends up on top in the end. MY bet is on the LABORERS who know how to actual toil for living that will survive over the silver spooned elites trying to shovel and justify this Silent Back Door Austerity down our throats that we have going on in our Workers Comp and HMO's arenas now.

    ARE YOU SAYING these men are liars MR. Dapaolo? Or are You the one not being honest with us, on behalf of corporate interest that foster this belief that our work comps system are not broken and not harming workers, when folks are actual dying from the wrongful denials and delays in their care? Take a listen to what some Honest Lawyers have to say about it all. Men that have taken off their social blinders to the abuse of corporate stealing our GRAND BARGAIN out that back door while the laborers are busing working with their heads down to the grind stone Hmmm? Working SIR? For who you and elite group of corporate friends? NOT NO MORE Thanks and it's been a pleasure educating you the facts of what really going on for injured workers in our world today. And PS my education is FREE, your welcome. For that is what good humans do with one another, we share. Peace

  10. WA State Political History Lesson. It seems before these folks were on the same side they used to not be, yet now both seem to agree about workers comp. When and what made Sen. Marko change his mind? Just about 2 years later he makes his workcomp white board video telling us all is fine in workers comp and the jobs are going to just trickle down to us all? Hmmm? What Happen Sen. Marko... Did you and HOBBS get together? And Ummm , Ummm Ya know,,,, make a little back room deal? Just asking?
    Now both these leaders could care less about workers comp or ALEC state made med tort laws being used to fleece the injured in WA State. Why? ALEC got to them all?
    SEN. Liias’ letter states:
    The Washington State Labor Council just sent out an email criticizing our Democratic opponent for hosting a “Corporate Lobbypalooza” fundraiser that’s taking place today!
    I share their concern. We, as Democrats, should stand up to the special interests, not ask them to bankroll our campaigns -- because at the end of the day, they have enough influence in Congress. It’s middle class families that deserve a voice.

    YET not even two years later, Rep. Marko was singing the same song and playing along with the same ALEC piper. And about 5 years later the now SEN. MARKO, is still telling us all things are fine, and even sells out to the same ALEC group he said HOBBs was before..... now thats compromise in WA State bro.

  11. This is no longer fun and games in WA State... IT a class war and folks are all ready rising up and drawing blood..... THe ACA is to replace workers comp that is the plan by both sides the top 33%. Top wants industry to shed its part of the grand bargain off to the feds. smoke and mirrors by both sides that have been bought out by the top and ALEC.