Workers’ Comp At A Turning Point: Should Workers Be Concerned?

Mar 20 2017

There was a consistent message throughout the most recent Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) conference: workers’ compensation is at a turning point, and it is more important now than it ever has been.

A System Thrown Off Balance

Workers’ compensation is often described as a balancing act between keeping employers’ costs down and providing adequate benefits for injured workers. Many panelists at the conference noted that this balancing act has been thrown off by factors such as:

  • Strong lobbying efforts on the part of employers
  • An erosion of other social safety nets, such as health insurance and pensions, which diminished the role that workers’ comp needed to play
  • Changing standards that made it necessary to show closer ties to work and the injury than previously accepted standards
  • Introduction of more bureaucracy into the process, including utilization reviews, treatment protocols, and many other additional layers of procedure.

What’s Next For Workers’ Comp?

Many workers’ comp experts at the conference pointed to an emerging theme: if workers’ comp is to be effective going forward, balance needs to be restored and we need to focus on both the cost of workers’ comp and the benefits workers receive. There needs to be a recognition of the fact that there is more to workers’ comp than just a company’s bottom line, and that the system is not just a way for employers to avoid being sued, but a way for those who are hurt to recover without facing crushing expenses.

A recent Insurance Journal article sums this up nicely; it states that workers’ comp was designed as a “grand bargain” that benefitted both workers and employers. But if current trends continue, “the grand bargain comes to an end.”