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Workers Dealt Losing Hand in Comp Reforms


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been wheeling and dealing in Sacramento this week, cutting agreements to raise the minimum wage, reign in the cost of prescription drugs and hopefully, protect the environment. And with a flurry of bills making their way to his desk, Democrats are hoping to serve one of their greatest masters – the trial lawyer lobby – some icing on the compromise cake by tinkering with the State’s Workers’ Compensation system.

When Schwarzenegger ran for office in 2003, one of his main campaign planks was that policies adopted in Sacramento were driving businesses (and their jobs) out of the state. Among the most egregious examples was the State’s Workers’ Compensation system, which he vowed to fix.

And fix it he did. In 2004, Schwarzenegger sat down with Democrats in the California legislature to pass a law that reigned in the costs of the system.

Trial lawyers, who claim to represent the workers, were not happy. Their ability to game the workers’ comp system was being restricted, and they wanted to do something about it.

They set Arnold in their sights…to the point that it’s been reported that the attorneys threatened medical providers who did not support his opponent, Democrat Phil Angeledis, with being removed from their referral lists.

Let’s get this much straight. Trial lawyers care more about their pocketbooks than their clients. Because of their greed, the costs of workers’ comp disability payments nationwide have risen faster than the benefits to workers.

It’s evident not just in Workers’ Compensation; the lawyers get greedy almost anywhere they can put a finger in a pie. On the other side of the country, litigation was blamed for the near-closure of Putnam General Hospital in Putnam County, West Virginia – the only hospital serving that small community of 55,000 people. More than 100 lawsuits have been filed and the lawyers are even suing each other over the spoils!

Luckily for Californians, such greed won’t bankrupt the state’s Workers’ Compensation system – even if the applicants’ attorneys are able to tinker with the program in the final week of the Legislative session, because ultimately it’s the businesses, not the hospitals, which will be lining their pockets.

But as the cost of insuring workers soars, job growth slows and wages stagnate, I have to ask who’s really looking out for the best interest of California’s workers?

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 10:32 AM | Permalink

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