Monday, April 9, 2012

A closer look at the Republican war on Mississippi workers

This week, Republicans in the legislature will continue their offensive against Mississippi workers as Senate Bill 2576 returns home to the Senate.  The "Workers' Compensation Destruction Act," as it's known on these pages, hurts hard working Mississippians at a time when their job security and economic well-being are most at risk. 

Hammering workers in a bad economy is almost always bad political strategy but SB 2576 also fails as a matter of sound public policy for the following reasons:
  • Current law already prevents intoxicated workers from receiving benefits;
  • 80% of all workers age 40 and over have some pre-existing medical condition.  Under SB 2576, these pre-existing conditions can be used to reduce or deny workers compensation benefits even if the pre-existing condition has no effect on work performance;
  • Every health insurance plan allows its members to get a second opinion from a doctor of their own choosing.  SB 2576 eliminates access to second opinions, and eliminates choice of doctors under certain circumstances;
  • SB 2576 will provide little rate relief.  Mississippi already has one of the lowest workers' compensation rates in the country (rated 31st and 50th among 50 states);
  • Mississippi currently has the lowest payment schedules for work-related injuries in the United States.  SB 2576 does very little to enhance benefits and will not bring Mississippi off of the bottom;
  • The PEER Committee criticized the current workers' compensation system and suggested major changes to the Commission.  None of these proposed changes are addressed in SB 2576;
  • The Chairman of the Workers' Compensation Commission recently described the system as "fair."  Reports indicating that he has changed his opinion and supports SB 2576 are false; and
  • The Workers' Compensation section of the Mississippi Bar, composed of lawyers who represent employees and employers, opposes SB 2576. 

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