Bill would create commission to study effectiveness of state comp laws
Specifically, the National Commission on State Workers' Compensation Laws Act, H.R. 635, would establish a separate body to evaluate state workers' comp laws in order to determine whether the regulations provide an adequate, prompt and equitable system of compensation and medical care for injury or death arising in the course of employment.
"I am proud to introduce this responsible legislation, which creates a long overdue commission to study the validity of current state workers' compensation laws," said Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif. "More than 35 years have passed since our government took a serious look at the effectiveness of workers' compensation laws. Access to proper benefits and medical care after on-the-job injuries is a right every American worker deserves. I am hopeful this legislation will bring us closer to updating and modernizing our state workers' compensation laws to ensure they remain effective in this new century."
?long overdue.' In 1972, the Nixon administration authorized a national commission to examine state workers' comp laws. The commission concluded that the system of state comp laws was "inequitable and inadequate," made numerous recommendations, and set a minimum standard for ensuring a fair system at the state level. However, according to Baca, no similar commission has been revisited to determine whether state compensation laws still provide equitable wage and medical benefits, due process of law, and fair reporting of fraud by employers.
Baca said the majority of U.S. workers and their families depend on workers' comp for their basic economic security in the event of an injury or death in the course of employment. Yet, since the 1972 commission, he said, changes and reductions in many state workers' comp laws have decreased the value and equity of some benefits.
"Proper workers' compensation laws are essential to protecting the well-being of American families that suffer through an accident or a tragedy in the workplace," Baca said. "I am confident the nonpartisan, independent commission my bill would establish will underscore what is working in state workers' compensation laws and bring to light the areas that need improvement."
Worker advocates applaud bill. Officials from Voters Injured At Work, a California nonprofit political organization that represents injured workers, and the California Applicants' Attorneys Association praised Baca for introducing the legislation, calling the review of state workers' comp laws "long overdue."
"We welcome a national commission to study California's workers' compensation system and those of other states, and whether California and other states are adequately serving injured workers," said Todd McFarren, president of the CAAA. "We stand ready to provide Congress and the commission, should it be created, with evidence of the drastic reductions in permanent disability compensation since 2004; discrimination in permanent disability awards; and inadequate access to medical treatment for injured workers."
Jesse Ceniceros, president of Voters Injured At Work, said the review would be a good first step in determining what a fair and adequate workers' system should look like.
February 10, 2009
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