Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Workers Comp Issues in 2015

Interesting article here, about possible issues that could impact Workers Compensation in this new year. One of the items here that piques my interest is that of "opt-out", that is, states giving employers the legal right to go without traditional Workers Compensation coverage. Texas has had it for years, of course, and more recently Oklahoma enacted a version of it, a version that allows employers to forego regular Workers Compensation coverage if they put in place an alternative program that offers the same benefits.

Now, it seems to me that the devil will really be in the details there. If the alternative program really and truly offers benefits that are the same as "real" Workers Comp, where exactly are the opportunities for cost savings? And if these alternative programs don't really and truly offer the "same" benefits, how does that all shake out for employers?

I know of one case where a state allowed certain kinds of employers to opt out if they provided an "alternative" plan that provided essentially similar benefits. And I know of an employer who hired some broker who specialized in such alternative programs to come up with one for them, and everything seemed fine until some workers were seriously injured. Then everything hit the fan, the lawyers earned some significant fees, and ultimately an appeal court determined that the alternative program had not really offered benefits sufficient to meet the (vague) statutory requirements, so the employer ended up being saddled with really expensive claims plus large penalties for failing to meet the statutory requirements, along with very hefty legal bills.

I'm just saying, there aren't many genuine short cuts in the world of Workers Compensation, and things that look they are sometimes don't turn out that way, when push comes to shove.

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