By now it’s obvious that our lawmakers are primarily interested in passing laws that punish the hardest working Michiganders just to placate the top 1 percent who run corporations and special interests. From a massive tax cut for big businesses made on the backs of the working poor and seniors to the shredding of the safety net, everything is on the table for Republicans if it’s on the wish list of the powerful business interests who control them. Meanwhile, families across the state are struggling. Right now there are more than four jobless people for every one job opening, and many are no longer counted among the official “unemployed” numbers because they’ve given up on looking.
Lansing Republicans are now targeting the state’s worker’s compensation system, which protects employees who are injured on the job. Michigan’s system, which has been hailed as a model for other states, requires businesses to either prove they can afford to provide compensation for lost earnings or buy an insurance policy.
Michigan’s current system is fair to businesses and employees. It requires injured workers to accept a “reasonable offer of employment” or risk losing coverage, compensates them for lost wages, and protects taxpayers from liability. It also protects businesses by forcing injured workers to give up their right to sue, in exchange for having a workers compensation system in place. Employers have the right to contest any claim; hardly any do, though, because of the extremely low rates of fraud.
The “reforms” passed by House Republicans would start by attacking the current system at the level of judicial appointments – the bill makes the judges who oversee the system appointees of the Governor, changing them from experts in their field into ideologically-motivated political actors. It almost completely eliminates patient choice by giving employers total control over which doctor injured workers can visit for 45 days. It makes it more difficult to prove that an injured worker has actually suffered a disability by changing the definition of “disability.” Finally, and most outrageously, it would reduce compensation by phantom wages – rather than getting them back to their original job, it would set the level of compensation at wages a worker doesn’t earn at a job they don’t have.
Their idea of reform would hurt workers by:
• Changing career judges to Governor Snyder’s appointees,
• Eliminating patient choice for injured workers,
• Making it harder to prove whether a “disability” was suffered,
• And setting compensation to phantom wages.
A Senate committee will be holding a hearing on this bill this afternoon at the Capitol, and Progress Michigan will be sharing the stories that people tell there. At a time like this, when so many families are so vulnerable, we can’t let Lansing politicians attack injured workers’ last line of defense on a whim. Make sure you follow us on Twitter and check back here this afternoon to see the stories from hard working Michiganders who depend on this system to survive while they get back on their feet.
UPDATE: Watch the videos below to hear stories from hard working Michiganders who were abused and neglected by their insurance companies.