The Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers' Compensation (ARAWC) is, according to its website, “a national organization formed to advocate for a system that will deliver better medical outcomes to injured workers and give employers a choice in how they will manage employee benefits. ARAWC was formed in 2013 and advocates before state legislatures to allow employees and employers to benefit from an Option, as some states already allow.”

Fair enough. Who can argue with better medical outcomes for employees? Who can deny that employers wish to escape a sometimes archaic and dysfunctional workers' comp system? And who could possibly oppose the establishment of “responsible alternatives”?

I certainly couldn't, if I was convinced that is what was actually happening. And recent developments on the ARAWC website only serve to confirm my suspicions.

The ARAWC membership was at one time proudly displayed on the organization's website. Full/Founding members were listed, as were Sponsoring Members, Associate Members and Friend Members. Indeed, the website still promises that companies joining the lobbying effort will “have their corporate logos included on the ARAWC website”. Yet, very shortly after a highly critical article ran in Mother Jones regarding the group's intentions, the list of members mysteriously vanished.

Poof. Like it never even happened.

Now, contrary to public belief, I am not opposed to Opt Out, if it is established transparently and run in an equitable manner. As noted, I get why employers like Walmart, Nordstrom, Safeway, Lowes, Kohls, Dillard's, Macy's, Sysco Foods, Big Lots (all Founding ARAWC Members) and others want to seek responsible alternatives to the comp system. We have things in workers' comp that we need to fix – and until we do the push for Opt Out will continue. There are also insurers and service companies involved in ARAWC. I understand that, too. These companies have services to sell, no matter what system is governing the purchase. One workers' comp service company seems to be openly championing Opt Out; an action I personally don't understand, but they apparently have their reasons. Still, Opt Out in practice does not seem to be living up to its stated purpose or promise, and that is the issue I have with it today.

The fact that ARAWC members apparently no longer want to be publicly identified tells me I'm not the only one thinking that way.

Mother Jones ran a follow up article about the corporate member names disappearing from the website, and published an archived version of the list that existed prior to their article. It is available to view here. A spokesman for ARAWC told the publication:

“The Current Members page on the ARAWC website was previously scheduled to be taken down, because it did not reflect our current membership. It is not a big issue like some are making it into. Many lobbying organizations do not list their members at all. I expect the page to be re-posted at a later date.”

That statement was dated March 30th, almost 2 months ago. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. It apparently takes a long time to type new member names on a web page.

My point is simply this: Opt Out in Oklahoma, in my opinion, is not the panacea that it has been portrayed to be. There appear to be serious shortcomings in the development and execution of the plans that are in place. These shortcomings endanger not just the employees of the companies that use them, but present tremendous risk for the employer and the taxpayer as well. Now proponents want to extend the reach of this program into additional states such as Tennessee and South Carolina. And companies financing the effort have, for the moment, “gone dark” on the matter.

Ironically, the 404 error page on the ARAWC website, the page that you get when you follow what used to be the link to the membership roster, carries a banner that says, “This is somewhat embarrassing, isn't it?”

 

I couldn't agree more.

Quite frankly, if your company is too much of a coward to publicly stand behind its “responsible alternative”, then perhaps it should develop an alternative that is more responsible.

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