Archive for Thursday, September 18, 2008

Study: Kansans’ workers comp benefits lagging far behind cost of living

September 18, 2008


— Workers compensation payments to injured Kansans have lagged far behind the increasing cost of living, according to a study released Thursday.

The study will be used in the 2009 legislative session to try to persuade lawmakers to increase Kansas workers' comp benefits, which rank among the lowest in the country.

"The Legislature's failure to address this problem for more than two decades is nothing short of disgraceful," said Terry Humphrey, executive director of the Kansas Association of Justice, which is made up of labor groups and lawyers who represent injured workers.

"Legislators routinely pay lip service to the value of our workforce, but if they really believe in supporting the workers of this state, they will fix this problem in 2009," Humphrey said.

The study - "The Eroding Value of Workers Compensation Benefit Cap Levels" - was conducted on behalf of the association by the Kansas University Institute for Policy and Social Research.

In Kansas, benefits are capped for employees who have suffered a range of workplace injuries from being permanently disabled to partially disabled, to having limited impairments. The system also caps death benefits to the families of workers killed on the job.

But the caps on those payments have not increased in years.

For example, the cap for a worker with a permanent and total disability is $125,000 and has not been changed since 1987, the study says.

"As each year goes by, the maximum allowable benefits go less and less far towards supporting an injured worker and her family," the study says.

Benefits capped in 1987 would need to increase 77 percent to adjust to inflation, and 107 percent to keep pace with wage growth, the study said. That means the $125,000 cap on permanent and total disability would need to be $221,455 to keep up with inflation and $258,324 to keep up with wage growth.

A legislative committee is charged with studying workers' comp issues and is expected to make recommendations to the full Legislature which starts its session in January.


imastinker 9 years, 7 months ago

Bozo,I doubt it's a small percenteage. How many people do you personally know who faked getting hurt, got hurt at home and blamed it on a work accident, or stayed off work after being better. I personally know several people who have done this, and not through work. There is too much abuse of this program.

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 7 months ago

Besides which, the "frauds" are already investigated prior to benefits being awarded. I suppose if you live in a pseudo-intellectual thought bubble you might think otherwise and fire off half thought out knee-jerk reactions. But in the real world, this isn't an issue. Perhaps when you get old enough to start paying for your own insurance, you will realize what a ludicrous statement you made.

blakus 9 years, 7 months ago

Ugh. I just moved from Lawrence to Wyoming and their worker comp issues are completely out of control, especially considering that most of the injuries incurred here are energy-field related (oil, gas, coal). The difference between the two states though is that the people of Wyoming are fed up with the practices of those in charge of workers comp and are doing something about it. (Considering that there has a been a surplus in workers comp monies the last couple of years, people should be upset!!)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 7 months ago

Yes, that's a wonderful solution, OTR-- punish all those who were legitimately injured on the job until all of the likely small percentage of frauds are caught.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 7 months ago

"How many people do you personally know who faked getting hurt, got hurt at home and blamed it on a work accident, or stayed off work after being better."None. That doesn't mean that it never happens. Neither does your knowing a few people who did this mean that it's a widespread problem.

bad_dog 9 years, 7 months ago

You would probably be surprised at the numbers of persons filing fraudulent Workers Comp, private disability insurance and Social Security disability claims. It is indeed a widespread problem. I have been involved with thousands of these claims over the years and it never ceases to amaze me what people think they can get away with. Not all claims are fraudulent from the inception-some just morph into that after the initial injuries heal. Others are fraudulent from the inception and involve persons who lie about pre-existing conditions to obtain disability insurance coverage they would not otherwise qualify for. Some misrepresent their income to qualify for higher benefits with the intent to claim a disability if their business fails or they tire of working. In my humble opinion, a good part of the reason the Social Security Administration has fiscal problems is attributable to the high numbers of people improperly claiming benefits. They not only obtain monthly benefit payments and Medicaid years before retirement age, they also clog the system and delay benefit payments for others with legitimate disability claims. It is also extremely difficult to get the Office of the Inspector General (the enforcement arm for the SSA) or state anti-fraud units to do anything about it-despite the lip sevice they pay to the subject.Let's also not overlook the employers and business owners that lie about the nature of their work or the amount of their annual employee payrolls in order to make their risk appear less and thus, lower their insurance premiums. As for the issue of "social handouts" let's not forget that the legislatively expressed purpose of Workers Compensation benefits was to establish a no-fault basis for awarding medical treatment and a semblance of income protection to injured workers. In the absence of work comp, injured workers are left with no recourse than to sue their employers for negligence or some other tort based offense. Would you suggest they pay their own medical expenses when injured on the job in the course and scope of their employment? Private insurance disability benefits result from contractual and legally enforceable obligations and are intended to replace income lost as a result of disability. As such they are not "handouts" any more than the payment you would expect from your home insurer if your house burned down. Social Security disability is what it is. If you don't like it, write your Congressional representative.

bad_dog 9 years, 7 months ago

Bowhunter, there are literally hundreds of thousands of disability policies in force today-whether they are group disability policies offered by employers as benefits to employees under ERISA or obtained by private individuals. Not everyone can afford the luxury of the personal responsibility you refer to due to the high premiums associated with private disability policies. Nevertheless, fraudulent claims come in all shapes and colors; from a few hundred dollars a month in benefits to more than $125,000 per month. Fraudulent claims are tendered by everyone from the "common" worker to the so-called "Captains of Industry" and "pillars of the community". I've been there and seen it on hundreds of occasions. There is no moral high ground here, for either liberals or conservatives, so get over it.

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