Lets Blame the Workers' Comp System!

Posted By Thomas F. Martin, PLC || 29-Dec-2015

Here we go again. A government bureaucrat gets caught with his department spending outrageous sums of money on office equipment. Then blames the "workers' compensation system" for the fiscal mismanagement.

The office equipment in question was clearly needed because it was designed avoid future repetitive work injuries. Protecting employees from injuries inherent in their jobs is smart business. Overpaying for the equipment is not. Blaming the "workers' compensation system" for overpaying is not only unjustified, it also doesn't make sense. What does overpaying have to do with the workers compensation system? Absolutely nothing.

But its this sort of unjustified blame that sets into motion discussions among legislators in Sacramento about "reform" of the workers compensation system. Instead of fixing the real issue - in this instance, apparent fiscal mismanagement - workers compensation is used as a scapegoat because someone decided to use it as a diversion. The result is almost always a loss of further rights and benefits to injured workers with the passage of laws punishing injured workers.

You remember how this goes.

Back in 1988, auto insurance companies threatened to leave the state if Proposition 104—the so-called "no fault" bill—didn't pass. With every other TV commercial, I'm reminded that it didn't pass, and they are still here. Maybe, just maybe, threatening to "leaving the State" was a scare tactic to divert attention from the true motive—pay less to future victims of auto accidents.

Fast forward to 2004, when some claimed that everything wrong with the California economy was the "broken workers’ compensation system" (oh yeah, and the car tax). Arnold blew up the car tax, and swore he would "improve" the workers’ compensation system, and that he did, at least for some. Insurance companies made record profits after he signed Senate Bill 899, and every injured worker has lost important rights and benefits since its passage. (Later, it was determined that "blowing up" the car tax is what really caused lasting damage to the economy).

So, forgive my cynicism when I read a recent article in the LA Times which cited another disciple of the "when all else fails, blame the workers’ compensation system" crowd.

Phillip Browning, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services blames—wait for it—the California Workers' Compensation system for his department purchasing $150 tape dispensers and $375 dollar wireless headsets!

Apparently, this government bureaucrat figures that if he blames "the workers’ compensation system," no one will notice that his department is spending outrageous sums of money for items we can buy for a fraction of the cost in the real world. He explained that his department needs to buy these items to make the workplace ergonomically safer and avoid future workers’ compensation claims. That makes perfect sense. How that justifies his department paying outrageous prices for the necessary items makes no sense. Unless your goal is to divert attention from the real issue: fiscal mismanagement.

Of course, this is the same Browning who admitted to the LA Times back in August that he should have "known more about" what was going on when two executives of a Los Angeles group home were charged with misuse of public funds and embezzlement. The Times reported that the financial mismanagement may have "festered for years." Surprisingly, Browning didn't blame the workers’ compensation system.

At least not yet.

What these stories have in common, sadly, is that while the "workers’ compensation system" is a convenient whipping boy for insurance companies who reap billions of dollars in profit, or a government bureaucrat who paid too much for a tape dispenser, the simple truth is working Californians depend on the system to recover physically and financially when a work injury happens.

I'm resisting the temptation, but I'll admit I'm curious what that tape dispenser must look like. Damn, he got me.
Categories: Workers Compensation
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