Workers’ compensation costs are the lowest they’ve been since the 1970s, causing insurance companies to profit while injured workers struggle to stay above the poverty line, according to an in-depth report from ProPublica and NPR.
The article explores the drastic cuts to workers’ compensation benefits across the U.S. Since 2003, legislators in 33 states have passed workers’ compensation laws that reduce benefits or make it more difficult for those with certain injuries and diseases to qualify for them, the study reports.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa) agrees that the reforms to workers’ compensation are hurting Americans.
“They call them reforms. That’s a real insult to workers,” he said.
In Pennsylvania, the average workers’ compensation cost to an employer for every $100 of a worker’s wage is just $2, compared to $3.79 in 1988. While the costs employers incur for healthcare and retirement plans have risen over the years, workers’ compensation has fallen significantly.
And what have employers done to help foot the bill for the medical expenses and lost wages that workers’ compensation doesn’t cover? Turned to the American taxpayer. Americans are paying tens of billions of dollars a year through Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicare and Medicaid for lost wages and medical costs. Politicians are painting these programs as the problem, but in fact it is insurance companies that are the problem. In conjunction with employers, they are denying basic care and wages to injured workers, while making record profits. In 2013, insurance companies made an 18 percent return. Injured workers are forced to find another source of income just to meet their basic needs.
These cuts continue to exemplify how workers’ compensation is not living up to its promise to provide a livable income to injured workers. In exchange for giving up the constitutional right to sue their employer, Americans were guaranteed compensation from their employer for medical bills and wages under workers’ compensation. Today, workers’ compensation is a battleground where employees have to fight tooth and nail just to receive decent medical care and a fraction of the wages they were earning before their injury.