The authors and backers of SB 567, in its current form, want the Workers Compensation system to be primary funding source for medical care and disability benefits for hospital care workers. Not just for job-related injuries and illnesses, but for injuries and illnesses that may have nothing to do with their work. It is a solution without a problem.
A little history…
The Workers’ Compensation law, simply put, provides that the employer pays the medical care expense for work-related injuries or illnesses, along with necessary temporary and permanent disability benefits, regardless of negligence or fault. The law also prevents workers from suing their employers for work-related injuries. Most employers fund this by purchasing Workers’ Compensation insurance.
Workers Comp benefits are generally restricted to injuries and illnesses that are work-related. SB 567 seeks to skirt that restriction by imposing upon the employer that certain injuries and illnesses to hospital care workers are presumed to be work-related. It imposes this “rebuttable presumption” threshold for up to 10 years after the worker last worked for the employer.
In practical terms, if, 10 years after their last day of employment as a hospital worker, a habitual smoker is diagnosed with cancer, that illness is presumed work-related and the hospital – or their insurer – pays 100% of the medical care for that worker, and also pays disability benefits to that worker. The rebuttable presumption threshold is difficult to overcome. The hospital would have to prove, by evidence and testimony, that the illness was not work-related.
The injuries and illnesses that would be subject to this threshold are many and broad and include any infectious disease, any cancer, any musculoskeletal injury, PTSD, and any respiratory disease. Latent presentation of the disease or injury continues compensable for up to three years for PTSD; five years for bloodborne infections, tuberculosis, meningitis, musculoskeletal injury; and for up to 10 years for any cancer or respiratory disease.
Currently, workers who are injured or become ill from their job already receive Workers Comp benefits. But, under SB 567, employers and insurers unable to overcome the presumption threshold will have to provide care and pay benefits even when it is clear that the injury or illness was not work-related.
You can see the possibilities for abuse, from weekend softball injuries to carpel tunnel to melanoma. All the injured or ill person needs to do is show they work there or once worked there, not that the injury is work-related.
One last, though not small, item of objection to this bill is the first section, which lays out the reasons for the bills purported necessity. This section mentions the preponderance of women as hospital caregivers, hospital workers’ increased likelihood of exposure to risks causing the subject illnesses and injuries, and the increased frequency of work-related injury and illnesses to these workers. It does not once mention that these workers are experiencing any difficulty obtaining treatment or benefits for their work-related injury.
The effect of the law would not be to make it easier to receive treatment or care for work-related injuries, it would make it easier to obtain treatment and care for non-work-related injuries and illnesses.