Home > Industry Issues, Labor and Industries, RCWs and WACS, Reconsiderations, The Appeals Board, Workmens Compensation > WA Legislature should enact governor’s workers’ comp reforms

WA Legislature should enact governor’s workers’ comp reforms

The Seattle Times editorial board supports Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposals to reform workers’ compensation insurance. The current system is quickly becoming unsustainable; the governor’s proposed changes are prudent and responsible.

THE workers’ compensation reform bills requested by Gov. Chris Gregoire are sitting in the Legislature, mostly not moving. They need to move. Washington’s system of caring for injured workers is, in the words of Judy Schurke, director of the Department of Labor and Industries, “becoming unsustainable.”

L&I gives out too many lifetime disability pensions: more than 1,000 a year, compared with a dozen or so in Oregon. If a worker can never work again because of an on-the-job injury, a lifetime pension is in order. But there are degrees of injury and degrees of help. Gregoire’s package includes new kinds of help so that fewer workers will take lifetime pensions — the most expensive kind of help.

Here is her proposal:

• A statewide provider network. “Some doctors are getting excellent results,” Schurke says. “Others are not.” The governor’s proposals would allow L&I to manage a provider network, like the health insurers do. Now it cannot.

• A wage subsidy for small employers. The idea, from Oregon, is to get the injured worker back on the job, thinking and feeling like a worker, “so as not to develop a disability mindset,” Schurke says. The wage subsidy, lasting up to 66 days, is a way to pay employers to provide light work.

• Raising the permanent partial disability award. Schurke says the current award is so low that claimants are “being driven to hold out for a lifetime pension.”

• A lump sum for workers 55 and up. Workers who could work if retrained are now put into costly retraining programs. Among older workers, Schurke says, “a lot go through the motions of retraining, but their heart is not in it. They just do it to qualify for a pension.” The state would offer them a cash settlement.

• A pension until retirement. Some workers can’t go back to work, but their work injury isn’t the main reason. Now they get lifetime pensions. Under Gregoire’s proposal, they would get a pension until their Social Security starts.

All this adds up to a system that would still be generous, but would slow down the rise in payroll taxes that make it more and more costly to create a job.

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  1. February 23, 2011 at 12:37 PM

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  2. February 24, 2011 at 2:32 AM

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  3. February 26, 2011 at 4:18 AM

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