A labourer who loses an arm in a job related accident is legally entitled to a maximum workers compensation benefit. In the state of New York, this rate is $400 per week, which lasts for 312 weeks. If a worker experiences pain in his lower back, they are entitled to weekly compensation until their doctors cure this pain, no matter how long it takes.
This unusual idiosyncrasy is because of a law established regarding workers comp in 1914. Though many injuries were listed in the law, many disabilities caused by work accidents were not covered.
So, for example, the law gives a period of time and payment amount for such injuries as loss of a limb or loss of hearing. If you suffer from either a permanent or partial disability that is not listed, then the benefits will be paid out for the person’s lifespan. Back pain and mental stress are included in these disabilities.
This has led to a workers compensation system that pays a disproportionate percentage, nearly 70 percent, to a mere 13 percent of all workers compensation matters. In New York alone, the worker’s compensation premiums are running 72 percent higher than the national average. This brings about the exhaustion of the tax dollar, which in turn impacts governments, businesses and schools.
On the other hand, $400 a week, which is the maximum benefit which can be collected in New York, is much lower when compared with surrounding states’. Local governments in New York are aware of the problem and are taking steps to address the problems affecting both parties. The maximum benefit has been increased to $685 per week in many states.
One of the worst workers’ compensation systems in the United States used to be in Texas. Conversely, alterations have been instilled within the system, and it has America’s most severe rate of injured workers and the third most expensive compensation fees anywhere.
Another problem in Texas was the growing dropout rate of doctors. The government responded by revising the law to create new physician networks and provide a small boost in benefits paid to injured workers. Texas worker’s comp program is now leading the nation with programs from other states.
Suggestions for overhauling New York’s workers comp have included limiting to ten years the benefits provided for permanent partial disability. Law makers are also considering raising the maximum weekly benefit to $500. If the state were to use both of these changes, it’s estimated it could lower premium costs by up to 15 percent.
The hope is that more ideas will be brought to the government and that these will increase the amount of benefits. The clear answer to finding a solution to equalizing workers comp benefits is discovering where this middle ground is. This will also solve the problem of open ended cases of back pain.
New York need only look to California, a state which has already made such changes to its laws. A petition drive placed the question before voters in that state. Lawmakers were forced to take action because of the public’s staggering support for his position.
In New York, there is no opportunity for a petition drive. It is important to find another way to get the attention of legislators regarding workers compensation. Local legislators must let their leaders know that struggling businesses and stressed local governments see this as a priority.