Putting HB 237 in Context: Beyond the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Headlines

July 5, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

The big news of 2012, at least as far as North Carolina workers’ compensation is concerned, is obviously the passage of HB 237, a bill signed into law last week by Governor Beverly Perdue.

As we have covered in previous posts, the law is designed to encourage businesses to comply with insurance regulations. It comes in the wake of a high profile news series in the News & Observer, which documented how thousands of in-state businesses lack North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance coverage.

The measure fell far short of some advocates’ expectations. The Executive Editor of the News & Observer said “if the data from the NC Rate Bureau was made private, we would not have been able to publish [the landmark] story.” John Bussian, a representative of the North Carolina Press Association, also had problems with the bill – specifically the provision that made employer information proprietary: “the fact is, neither the media nor the government can gauge whether employers are complying with the workers’ compensation law with that database.”

Beyond the Headlines

How much will HB 237 change the North Carolina workers’ compensation system?

Are we collectively focusing on the right “stuff” to reform workers’ comp, make it fairer, encourage employers to be more compliant with insurance requirements, and so forth? Perhaps. But in all likelihood, the Sturm und Drang surrounding the News & Observer story — and the subsequent battle over legislation — may be overblown.

Here is the reality: Given the will and economic incentives, there are dozens, possibly hundreds, of strategies that we can collectively deploy to improve the system. For instance, and these are speculative, but they are potentially useful to consider:

•    Consider a statewide ban on sodas and other sugary beverages, similar to the proposed and much ballyhooed New York city ban. This could reduce obesity and diabetes rates in the state, which would in turn reduce pressure on the healthcare system and possibly reduce injuries at the workplace;
•    Launch a campaign to encourage North Carolinians to get more sleep, thereby theoretically reducing the number of fatigue-related accidents and workers’ comp claims;
•    Create a conference to bring together insurers, attorneys, regulators, employee groups, and employer groups to search for mutually beneficial strategies and tactics to improve the system’s efficiency, utility, costs, etc.

This speculation is not intended to downplay the debate over HB 237 – it could turn out to be an important and useful law. But we generally need to think “bigger picture” and see the context in which laws like HB 237 are debated and passed.

On a more practical front, if you or a loved one needs help dealing with your benefits situation, the team at DeMayo Law is here to help.

 
 

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