A recipe for disaster

The Insurance Journal has ranked Iowa third in the nation with our current workers’ compensation system. Despite this, lawmakers have proposed an extreme piece of legislation that will among other things make it much more difficult to prove that an injury is work related, allows insurance companies to escape liability if the injured worker has a prior condition like arthritis, cuts-off benefits to injured workers at age 67, and overall reduces compensation to Iowans hurt on the job by claiming offsets. For Iowans who sustain a shoulder injury their case will be treated the same as if they injured their finger and much more.

In 1913, there was a bargain between employers and employees that prohibited employees from filing a civil lawsuit against their employer and eliminated compensation for many things such as pain and suffering. In exchange for this, the workers’ compensation system was created which provides limited benefits to injured workers in the form of medical care directed and controlled by the employer, weekly benefits if they are not able to work and compensation for loss of earning capacity should their injury cause a permanent disability. This bill (SSB 1170/HSB 169) radically changes this agreement by making it harder for injured workers to receive benefits and dramatically reducing benefits.

For example, if you are 30 or older you likely have some form of arthritis in your body. If you are at work and while lifting a heavy part, you sustain a traumatic injury to your back, they will likely take an X-ray and perhaps a MRI. When those tests show some prior arthritis in your back, the insurance company will have a reason to claim that lifting the box was not the “predominant factor” in causing your back injury as you already had arthritis.

When the insurance company denies your claim, but you still need medical care then you will have to use your health insurance. However, if you are not able to work and your employer terminates you, then you may not have health insurance. At that point you could try to use your spouse’s insurance, but you better hope that the health insurance policy does not contain an exemption for conditions that could be considered work related and also deny your medical care. If this happens, then you will be left with no alternative but to apply for Medicaid and/or seek treatment at a county hospital or the University of Iowa. Meanwhile, you have no source of income, are in pain because you are not receiving medical care and the taxpayers instead of the insurance company end up paying for your medical care shifting the cost from the insurance company to Iowans. This is just one example of how badly this bill will hurt Iowans.