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Worker’s comp continues as holdup; will there be deal?

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on May 18, 2011 at 10:16 am with 7 Comments »
May 18, 2011 10:16 am

Denizens of the Legislative Building are waiting to see whether a resolution will be reached on workers’ compensation in the next few days that would provide a way for lawmakers to finish their work and go home.

Whatever has happened so far this week in high-level meetings between legislative leaders and the governor on the topic, word hadn’t filtered down yet as of late Tuesday to lobbyists and rank-and-file legislators.

Union-friendly lawmakers had planned a press conference Tuesday morning, but legislative leaders asked them to call it off. There were rumors that a deal was imminent, but nothing materialized.

The two sides in the House remain divided on the Senate’s demand to allow injured workers to take a lump-sum payment to settle claims against their employers.

The settlements appear to have the votes to pass on the House floor. Rep. Chris Hurst, a conservative Enumclaw Democrat, says he thinks if House members were forced to vote, as many as 18 Democrats would join Republicans, easily passing the bill designed by business-friendly House Democrats. Even if his count is high, nine Democrats including Hurst have officially signed on in support of the bill, enough to squeak it through.

But as it turns out, the vote count inside House Democrats’ private caucus room is what counts. Rep. Tami Green, D-Lakewood, said a majority of House Democrats — 45 of the caucus’s 56 members — oppose the centrist Democrats’ bill. It won’t go to the floor with that kind of opposition, Green said: “It will blow up our caucus if that happens.”

And Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, said a smaller majority of the caucus is so dead set against it, they were set to attend the news conference denouncing it on Tuesday, before it was postponed. She said she thinks there would have been about 31 House Democrats in attendance, with a few senators joining them.

Hurst said the centrists have addressed opposition by adding protections for workers — for example, exempting medical care from the future benefits workers give up when they accept a settlement –  yet “the other side has not taken so much as a millimeter (step) toward us.”

But House liberals maintain workers would be pressured into settlements. They have offered three alternative bills intended to save money on the worker’s comp system, but aren’t touching settlements. “We already said we’re not going to do it, and we mean it,” Appleton said.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. tree_guy says:

    Wheels beginning to fall off the liberal bandwagon.

  2. DesMnsDave says:

    How can you be “pressured” into a VOLUNTARY settlement, especially when the claim MUST be accepted first, and benefits are paid until a settlement becomes final???

    The lies and distortions and false arguments (because the substantive ones have been addressed) make me want to puke!

    What this is REALLY about is control. Labor and their trusty cohorts the trial lawyers control the Governor’s office, the Legislature, the of Labor & Industries, the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, and the Courts. If workers actually got the opportunity to make decisions for themselves, labor loses control. Plain and simple.

  3. LaborGoon says:

    No, this is about cutting benefits. The bill’s fiscal note estimates that in the first two years alone, 7,000 injured workers will “choose” to take an average $105,000 less per worker than they would otherwise receive. When those attractive lump-sum checks run out, and they do, the costs of disabling work injuries will simply shift from businesses to taxpayers in the form of welfare and health care for people who can no longer work.

    The law says the cost of “sure and certain relief for injured workers and their families” must be “borne by industry.” Lump-sum buyouts turn that principle on its head, and shift the costs to you and me.

    This is a $1 billion benefit cut from the safety net for injured workers, plain and simple.

  4. DesMnsDave says:

    @LaborGoon …

    No. This isn’t about cutting benefits. It’s about workers not being permanently and totally disabled receiving pension benefits. Under this proposal, those that are PTD will receive benefits — either by legal definition (automatically), or by sticking to the benefits they are awarded FIRST, before a settlement can even be offered.

    In the 44 states that have some sort of settlement, there is little to no cost shifting to social service programs. If you have evidence to the contrary, please provide it.

    Also, workers will continue to receive medical benefits should their condition worsten. That is the largest cost element that most people fear.

    The reality is this …. people move on with their lives in other states, but wind up on pensions here when they really aren’t pensions … and employers are paying for that. That’s not right, that’s not fair, and it’s costly in the form of unnecessary disability developing in otherwise productive workers, and a disincentive in employers keeping and expanding their family-wage paying jobs here in Washington state.

  5. LaborGoon says:

    One question, DesMnsDave.

    Where, if not from the pockets of injured workers, does the $1 billion-plus in “savings” come from?

  6. papasan says:

    Ths is the WORST thing that could happen to injured workers. I’ll preface this by saying: I AM an injured worker. I can not work. Why, is none of your damned business.
    If the State were to offer me a settlement, it would be in excess of $1,000,000, based upon my current levels. Say I took that million and, acting like a fool (as some people are prone to do) I went out and got me and the Mrs. some “Bling-bling”. New car, trips, all the great things that we can’t have NOW, because we can’t afford it. Ten years from now, the money’s gone, every dime. Now what happens?? I cam’t afford to pay my bills, rent, anything.. Keep in mind, I can’t work! Do I go on welfare, food stamps, become a burden to the State?
    That’s just one scenario. This is a TERRIBLE idea that will only cause ruin to injured workers. Being unable to work is NOT a vacation. It’s not FUN TIME. It SUCKS. Giving LOTTO sized payments to injured workers will NOT help them and will only be more costly in the long run.

  7. papasan says:

    One writer stated that I would continue to receive medical benefits..
    I receive NO medical benefits from the State. NONE. I haven’t since my case was closed over 9 years ago. I DO get Medicare from the Feds. My Family gets NOTHING. I don’t qualify because I make TOO MUCH. My family has NO healthcare, NO dental, NO life, NOTHING.
    Still think we’ve got it so great?
    The State pumps out millions a year to, guess who… DOCTORS! They paid my doctor, then they paid another doctor to contradict my doctor. I had repeated tests all to show that the same physician I had been seeing for over 15 years was wrong. I had 3 myelograms, 2 CAT scans, 4 MRI’s and I can’t count the number of x-rays. I’m amazed I don’t glow in the dark. All to disprove what had been proven twice before. L&I paid them all. It took 8 years to close my case. The final 2 years was to fight my employer over how much they owed the State. They gave up when their legal fees had topped out what they were being asked to pay. The doctors that play the game AND the lawyers are the one RAPING the system. NOT the injured workers.

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