Kit Case October 15th, 2010
I do not usually get on any political band wagons, but I feel compelled to reach out this election cycle to point out an issue on the ballot that I feel strongly about – Initiative 1082, the workers’ compensation initiative. I have spent the last 24 years of my professional career in the area of workers’ compensation law. It is a shame that this area of law, and this system, which is so little known and little understood by the general public has made its way to the ballot via I-1082. I fear that most voters, reading the plain language of the initiative, will unknowingly vote yes using what seems to be common sense to allow private insurance companies to start selling workers’ compensation insurance directly to employers in the State of Washington. Competition is a good thing, right? Doesn’t sound like a big deal.
I have always adhered to the sage wisdom that if you don’t know anything, or enough, about the implications of an initiative, it is always best to vote NO. With I-1082 that is even more the case, because the implications are significant, and the devil is in the details of the 10 pages setting up this new system that you will not be reading on your ballot. Here’s a few details for you–in Washington State, all workers have historically paid a percentage of industrial insurance premiums, sharing this expense with their employers. Thus, we are all stakeholders in this system, and I think that’s a good thing. This initiative will place the entire financial burden of industrial insurance premiums on employers. So, this is not good news for business, who will see their costs rise significantly and immediately. One local business owner wrote an e-mail this morning saying that this initiative would raise his expenses by $13,000+ – in the first 18 months! My thought is that the writers of the initiative thought they would gain labor’s votes through reducing costs to workers by removing their contribution towards the premiums. But, this move will prove bad for workers and for business, and workers shouldn’t fall for this ploy.
The initiative will allow out-of-state insurance companies such as AIG and Liberty Mutual (among the biggest financial backers of this initiative) to come into Washington State for the first time since our system was set up in 1911. They will be allowed to manage injured workers’ claims their way, without appropriate, necessary oversight by the Department of Labor & Industries. The Department is, by no means, a perfect agency, but these companies will have profit-driven reasons to deny valid claims and delay approval for medical treatment and benefits. Also, if I-1082 passes and any of these insurance companies fail (as AIG has already so famously done), taxpayers will be left holding the bag. Worse, these companies will cherry-pick the claims they will insure, leaving the most costly for the State to pay for – that’s us, folks. Initiatives such have this have been sponsored (and won) in state after state, Ohio most recently. Don’t let them win here. Vote NO on I-1082.
Below are several links to editorials from papers, and a non-biased study of our system and the potential impact of I-1082, should you wish to dig deeper. Thanks for reading this far, and if you found this helpful at all, I would greatly appreciate it if you were willing to pass this message on to friends and family – this initiative is flying under the radar, so spreading the word is critical. Thanks, and don’t forget to mail in your ballot by November 2.
Tri-City Herald article
Seattle Post-Intelligencer article
The Olympian article
The Kelsay Report - analysis of data done by out-of-state reviewer
The Seattle Times – opinion article (even though the Times has endorsed this initiative)
Everett Herald article