There is a movement afoot amongst the movers and shakers in Corporate America, that you may not be aware of. We have all heard of, and many have even had to rely on Workers’ Compensation at some point. Well, there are some heavy hitters in the corporate world, we’re talking very large corporations and their highly paid advisers that are working to allow corporations to opt out of having to participate in and pay into workers ’ compensation. If this movement is successful, it will allow companies to craft their own rules with how injured workers are compensated.
According to one leader of this movement, Bill Minick, “We’re talking about reengineering one of the pillars of social justice that has not seen significant innovation in 100 years.” The journey that Minick and his cohorts are on sounds almost unreachable, but this group has already overcome some major obstacles and has made a significant impact.
Some of the United States’ largest health care, food, trucking and retails companies have already opted out of Workers’ Comp in the state of Texas. It just so happens that the Lone Star State is where Minick cut his teeth as a young attorney and originally came up with this idea. Following suit, Oklahoma has passed a law that Minick co-wrote, that would give companies in that State to opt out as well. Both South Carolina and Tennessee are looking at implementing similar changes. Add to that the fact that a group, led by Walmart, Lowes and other companies jumping on board, and the opt out for companies may prove to be a reality in as many as a dozen states within the next ten years.
Despite the fact that Minick’s movement is gaining traction, there has not been a lot of focus on just what these changes will mean for the average American worker. A company called ProPublica, along with NPR obtained injury benefit plans from over 100 companies that have opted out in Texas and/or Oklahoma. Many of these companies worked with Minick to adapt their new plans. The investigation has shown, so far, that the company-run plans usually give workers fewer benefits, additional restrictions and they do not include significant independent oversight.
In Texas, some of the plans that Minick’s firm have put together allow for a spattering of provisions that are quite different from those included with traditional Workers’ Comp. This is why McDonald’s doesn’t provide any coverage for carpal tunnel syndrome claims, and why the nation’s largest chain of assisted living facilities does not cover standard bacterial infections. Even Taco Bell has a provision to accompany injured workers when they go to get medical treatment related to on-the-job injuries.
In contrast with traditional workers’ comp, which provides lifetime medical care to recipients, the Texas plan stops coverage after two years. They do not provide any compensation for the majority of permanent disabilities and they put stricter limitations on any payouts due to catastrophic injuries or deaths.
Unlike traditional workers’ comp, which guarantees lifetime medical care, the Texas plans cut off treatment after about two years. They don’t pay compensation for most permanent disabilities and strictly limit payouts for deaths and catastrophic injuries.
Change is on the way, and is in fact already happening in several states. As to whether or not these changes will prove to be good for American workers, that is still debatable. One thing is for certain, though: everyone who works for a living needs to be aware of these changes and how they apply in their states and with the companies that they work for.