This week, with Congress certifying Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States and the special election in Georgia shifting power in the Senate, the long and harried election of 2020 has come to a close. As the dust settles, we view the shifting power base in Washington and the new initiatives and priorities it brings. We should be asking ourselves, “What’s next for workers’ compensation?” 

If you will recall, it was just 4 short years ago that many in the industry felt some sort of federal intervention was inevitable for the industry. It had undergone some highly critical reviews from publications such as ProPublica, and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez had issued a scathing report highlighting what his department viewed as major shortcomings of the state-based systems. There was no denying the sensation that workers’ comp was under attack. 

Views within the industry varied widely as to what it all meant, and what federal action, if any, would look like. Meetings were held. Groups and social organizations issued their own opinions. The majority consensus within the industry was that federal interference at any level would not help, and a complete federal takeover would be a complete failure. There were those within our industry who took the opposite position, and the debate raged on. Most agreed that if the November 2016 election went as the conventional wisdom expected, the incoming Clinton administration would continue down the path that had been laid before it.

Then, in one instance, all that stopped. Hillary didn’t win. Trump had different objectives. And the industry almost immediately forgot the threat that had embroiled it for the past few years.

Now, with the election of Biden and his party controlling both houses of Congress, we may find things will once again change. Many of Biden’s appointments are making it appear like the Obama administration will be back in business. The same players are once again returning to the center stage. This may mean that old priorities are new again, and workers’ comp may eventually find itself back in the crosshairs of federal oversight.

Or it may not. We simply do not know at this point. But we can be reasonably confident that something old yet new might be headed our way. It would be advisable for our industry to pull its head out of the sand, shake of the sheath of complacency, and look to the federally involved future that may now be before us. 

The Boy Scout motto would serve us well at this point: “Be prepared.”

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