Earlier this year WorkCompCentral published "The Uncompensated Worker: Financial Impact of Work Comp on Households" which reviewed from a very broad perspective the effect an industrial injury has on the prototypical American blue collar worker, "Tim."
Today we release follow up reports on Kentucky and Florida.
Each report compares two different injured workers - one who has a relatively minor work injury and the other a more severe lost time injury. The data used to build these profiles is readily available, the outcomes shocking.
Perhaps more shocking is the complete lack of concern by Florida state officials - neither the Florida Division of Workers' Compensation or elected officials have any idea what the financial impact of a work injury has on the state's workers. Said one official to WorkCompCentral in response to an email inquiry, "The Division has not received a request for analysis (studies) of what injured workers receive vs. their pre-injury take home pay, nor are we aware of any other request made of any other executive or legislative agency in Florida."
I suspect too many other lawmakers and regulators are likewise disconnected.
At least California's regulators and lawmakers commission studies occasionally on the adequacy of benefit, albeit perhaps without much persuasion.
The Uncompensated Worker special reports demonstrate that even a minor work injury can have long term negative consequences for household income, and show how easy a work injury can put a family under the poverty line.
The conversation needs to open up. We, as workers' compensation professionals, certainly don't make the laws and regulations, but we have detailed insight and information about what actually occurs in the implementation of them.
Yesterday I highlighted an article in the IAIABC Magazine by Berkeley researcher Frank Neuhauser. Essentially Neuhauser opined that work comp isn't for everyone, everywhere, all of the time. The economy has changed. Social welfare systems have changed. Expectations have changed.
Laws have changed...
As a consequence, per Neuhauser, we spend too much for too little.
The WorkCompCentral series of reports (which will be ongoing with a few more states to be reviewed) calls into question the adequacy of benefits across states.
The purpose of workers' compensation is to ensure that neither employers nor their employees meet financial ruin in the event of a work place injury.
But work injuries account for very, very little of the overall risk any longer.
We have to ask ourselves, and be truthful with ourselves - in the grand scheme of things, is workers' compensation really relevant any longer?
I'd argue that some form of work injury protection scheme is, indeed, very relevant and very necessary. To me, and I believe this is well supported by various studies, a properly designed and functioning work injury protection scheme creates safer work places, provides stability for businesses and keeps the economy moving by minimizing production losses when a worker can not do the work, either temporarily or permanently.
But what these reports tell me is that the way we provide work injury protection is no longer effective. Businesses complain it costs too much, and as we can see from these WorkCompCentral Special Reports, there is insufficient protection provided workers, and those living paycheck to paycheck are disproportionately affected.
IAIABC has opened up the dialogue about work comp adequacy with conversations around the nation. Other groups are also talking about whether we are meeting our social obligation.
The work comp industry, from my experience, has lots of caring, dedicated people who want to make a difference, want the protections promised 100 years ago, and will facilitate whatever is necessary to bring the system into the 21st Century.
As it stands now, though, all we can do to help mankind isn't enough, but we can lead.
Re-engineering of the Grand Bargain is a timely, and necessary, conversation. Opt-out is part of that conversation. Recruiting and retaining Millenials is part of that conversation.
We collectively have the expertise. With that expertise we will be a part of the solution and will drive the conversations into action.
I'm convinced that we, as an industry, have a mission far greater than just administering benefits. We are part of the new social order.
The Uncompensated Worker reports are free. Registration or login required.
Download the Kentucky report at https://www.workcompcentral.com/special-report/file-preview/pdf/5/wcc_referer/special_reports;
Download the Florida report at https://www.workcompcentral.com/special-report/file-preview/pdf/4/wcc_referer/special_reports.