Worker’s Compensation

Here’s another look at how workers are treated (a court later reinstated the plan, this time):

Ramirez had worked for 17 years at Kuehne + Nagel, the second largest freight forwarder in the world, climbing his way up from temp worker to warehouse supervisor. One day in July 2009, his boss asked him to move a crate. Ramirez pulled it out with a piece of equipment called a pallet jack. But as he turned his back to operate the jack, he heard a whooshing sound. A nearly 900-pound crate loaded with boxes full of satellite dish mounting poles came crashing down on him.

The crate, which OSHA said had been unsafely stacked, folded Ramirez’s body in half, crushing his spinal column and pinning his head between his feet.

“I started howling and yelling in Spanish and English,” he said. As blood poured from his mouth, he managed to tell his coworkers he couldn’t feel his legs anymore.

Travelers, the company’s workers’ comp carrier, began providing Ramirez with 24-hour home health care. In August 2012, a judge ruled him permanently and totally disabled and awarded him coverage for future medical care.

According to medical and court records, in early 2014, Ramirez’s physician submitted an unrelated request for additional care. Travelers sought a second opinion and then used what appeared to be only a slight modification to reassess the entirety of Ramirez’s home care plan.

This would be just except, as the story notes, this is part of a general trend in the US for states to reduce Worker’s Compensation:

The commission made dozens of recommendations that laid the foundation for modern workers’ comp systems: Nearly every employee should be covered. Workers should be able to pick their own doctors. If employees couldn’t work, they should get two-thirds of their wages up to at least the state’s average wage. Compensation should last as long as the person is disabled, with no arbitrary caps. Spouses should receive death benefits until they remarry, children until they graduate college.

In 1972, the commission advised Congress to mandate 19 of these recommendations as minimum federal standards if states didn’t enact the provisions on their own. States quickly did. But over time the political winds shifted. A wave of cutbacks began in the 1990s, swelled in the mid-2000s and, after slowing during the recession, picked up again.

The U.S. Labor Department used to keep track of how states complied with the presidential commission’s recommendations, but stopped after budget cuts in 2004.

A ProPublica analysis of state laws done in consultation with Burton found that only seven states now follow at least 15 of the recommendations made during the Nixon administration. Four states comply with less than half of them.

This would be a commission set up by President Nixon. And of course we pay the difference:

All the while, employers have found someone else to foot the bill for workplace accidents: American taxpayers, who shell out tens of billions of dollars a year through Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicare and Medicaid for lost wages and medical costs not covered by workers’ comp.

It’s a beautiful system.

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