In The Working Wounded, reporter Rachel Brahinsky describes the effects of the recent changes in California’s workers’ compensation insurance system. The changes – heavily touted by Governator Schwarzenegger – were meant to help control the staggering costs of workers’ compensation claims, by limiting cash payouts to workers and limiting workers’ legal options.
The jury’s still out on how much money the changes will ultimately save, but the human cost has already started to become clear. Injured workers have begun to be denied treatment. Insurance companies have started saying no to just about everything, and penalties that used to be levied against insurance companies for unfair delays and denials have been diminished dramatically. The changes have “limited compensation for lost wages, gutted the state’s job-retraining program, gave insurance companies the right to strictly manage medical treatment, and – perhaps most significantly – slashed the amount of money an injured worker can get to pay for the medical costs that will come with a lifetime of disability.”
Time will tell where this will all come out, but in the meantime a lot of people are going to be feeling pain – not just in their bodies, but in their pockets as well. This brings up again the value of eduation and prevention: take it upon yourself to learn about repetitive strain injuries and how to work smarter, because you may not be able to count on workers’ comp to help you deal with the aftereffects of an injury.