Since Governor Haslam proposes such a radical change in Tennessee’s Workers’ Compensation system, I, a retired insurance worker, believe the public should know how it currently works. Let me expand on Emily Todd’s 2/2/2013 letter to The Tennessean:
In 1969, I began keeping track of Workers’ Comp claims as an insurance clerical worker. I also read the history of Workers’ Compensation law, which I knew hadn’t been around when my great-grandfather was killed on the job at age 34. All in all, workers’ compensation insurance seemed a good and business-like way to handle the problem. The insurance company stayed abreast of appropriate laws and their claim representatives gathered resources to handle claims as efficiently as possible. Claim representatives have hearts and can give personal, one-source service to an injured worker.
I also learned of the Assigned Risk Pool each state developed for businesses so inherently dangerous nobody wanted to insure them. Keeping up with some of these accounts was part of my responsibility. I learned that, while some businesses are inherently dangerous, some of those in the Pool simply were not willing to spend money to provide reasonable workers’ protection. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 changed that situation for the better.
Major insurance companies offer loss control services to protect their own bottom line as well as that of their customers. I became a clerical worker in that end of the business in 1972. Yes, I learned some workers do try to scam the system, but employers trying to save bucks can do much more damage.
By happenstance, I got to see the result of a careless employer’s action myself. While attending a parent event, I met a widow trying to carry on after her husband’s death the year before. He had worked for a metal manufacturer whose processes included huge amounts of metal dust. One day, he and a fellow employee went to check the machinery in a seldom-visited building. The atmosphere was full of metal dust, and the employer had not provided non-sparking tools. He went up on the catwalk and began to adjust a motor. The motor, which was not explosion-proof, exploded directly in front of him. God only knows what the widow got to bury, but I can tell you no human being should have to suffer as she was – a year later.
Now the Governor proposes to cut compensation payout by one-third, which will make claims representatives have to negotiate with Medicare and Medicaid to complete a claim. This will increase the state’s Medicare and Medicaid costs, and probably insurance costs as well. – And the Governor wants his own appointee to control the process.