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Workers' compensation "reforms" leave injured workers in poverty


Over the past decade, many states, including Montana, have enacted so-called workers' compensation "reforms" that are causing catastrophic hardships to the workers who need the benefits most. The alleged reforms include a law enacted in 2011 in Montana that allows insurance companies, once they accept a claim, to choose the doctors who will treat an injured worker. The Montana law also allows insurance companies to change a worker's doctor any time they want.

These measures have been backed by the insurance industry and big business, based on the false claim that workers' compensation costs are out of control. In fact, the rates employers pay for workers' compensation insurance are the lowest they have been since the 1970s. And in 2013 insurance companies raked in a colossal 18 percent return, making it their best year in more than a decade.

But these hefty profits by insurers have come at a tragic cost to American workers. A recent report by National Public Radio details how the dismantling of state workers' compensation systems has had a devastating effect on work accident victims. The report tells the stories of a number of affected workers, including one who lost an arm in an oil field accident. A doctor hired by the insurance company decided the worker didn't need the myoelectric prosthetic arm with a functioning hand the man's own doctor recommended. The insurance company doctor instead authorized a cheaper prosthesis - one with a hook. As a result the 50-year-old worker cannot tie his shoes, pick up his grandchildren or cut food.

The NPR report relates a number of similar horror stories caused by workers' compensation "reform." Some workers have been evicted from their homes. Others have been plunged into a life of poverty. These stories demonstrate the need for workers to fight aggressively for their rights in the workers' compensation system. Consulting an experienced workers' compensation lawyer can be the first step to getting the compensation an injured employee deserves.

Source: kunc.org, "Injured Workers Suffer As 'Reforms' Limit Workers' Compensation Benefits," Howard Berkes, March 5, 2015

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