There has been a lot of speculation in our industry about the Federal Government’s appetite for intervening in the world of workers’ compensation. While most pundits and many influential professionals have steadfastly maintained that it will “never happen”, I have been the contrarian voice on the matter. I have postulated that the Federal government could indeed make a run at our little corner of the world, leveraging SSDI and taxpayer protection as the rallying cry for that expansive effort. Now, an email forwarded to me this week once again raises the specter of Federal intervention into the workers’ compensation hemisphere.
Authored by Doug Holmes of UWC – Strategic Services on Unemployment & Workers’ Compensation (UWC), it announces that the US Department of Labor, “in coordination with the National Academy of Social Insurance”, will release two reports reviewing state workers’ compensation on October 5th.
In the missive to his UWC membership, Holmes describes the two reports as:
* The Department of Labor’s State Workers’ Compensation Report, which addresses recent trends in state workers’ compensation systems and the effect of these trends on workers, employers, and communities; and
* The National Academy of Social Insurance’s report with the latest data on benefits, coverage, and costs in workers’ compensation.
Holmes indicates that the US DOL report “is said to address ‘recent trends in state workers’ compensation systems and the effect of these trends on workers, employers, and communities’”. He also speculates “that it may have been developed with reference to recent stories by NPR and Propublica which raised concerns about state workers’ compensation” as well as the highly publicized letter to the DOL from several congressional representatives urging them to look into workers’ comp.
Holmes doesn’t mince words, and tells his members that, “We can expect that the report released on October 5th will be part of a renewed movement to impose federal requirements on state workers’ compensation that will be taken up in the next Congress and in the next administration.”
Frankly, the potential for Federal interference in workers’ comp has been one of the driving forces behind the “National Conversation”. Many of us believe that new, complex regulations, layered over the myriad of standards and regulations we have today will not improve comp for anybody – injured worker or employer. Just as the Feds layered new requirements to protect Medicare, SSDI protections are likely to be equally as burdensome and lack the flexibility required to meet the regional needs seen in comp. The National Conversation is an attempt to address concerns the government may have, and prevent an action that will not benefit anyone involved.
Now it appears I may not be alone in my trepidations regarding this issue.
Holmes tells his members that “The reports and statement from the Secretary of Labor are open to the public only as they are released and a notice to participate in a discussion about the presentations is available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dol-nasi-state-workers-compensation-forum-tickets-27729562869”.
We can eagerly await the reports, and perhaps glean a bit more about the long term intent of the people in Washington. Time will tell, but the clock may be moving faster than we anticipate.