Will the NC General Assembly Gouge the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation System?

March 30, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

The blogosphere has been on fire since February with worried articles about how and whether the North Carolina General Assembly will fundamentally alter the North Carolina workers’ compensation system. The Republican controlled General Assembly – boosted by business groups – boasts an ambitious agenda to redraw the medical malpractice and North Carolina workers’ compensation systems to limit costs.

Opponents have complained that the proposed legislation could negatively impact hurt workers. For instance, when the changes go into effect:

• workers’ comp will cease after 500 weeks
• individuals who fail to follow their treatment may receive more limited compensation
• workers may lose flexibility in choosing their physicians
• hurt workers may lose certain privacy rights

All told, the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) processes more than 60,000 claims every year, so the General Assembly’s actions could profoundly change the landscape for hurt workers. Reformers, such as Republican McAlister, have argued that the system is tantamount to a retirement program: “In too many instances, it’s become more of a retirement program instead of taking care of a person until he is ready to go back to work.”

One of the key questions policy makers should look at here is: will the proposed General Assembly changes actually save the state costs and help small business owners? In other words, let’s set aside for a second how precisely these changes would impact hurt workers and ask a more fundamental question: what is the primary purpose of this legislation, and will it accomplish that purpose?

If the state seeks to save money, might there be other ways to make the system more efficient that don’t involve restricting benefits? For instance, could we collectively improve system administration through digital record keeping? Could we enact more data based programs to boost workplace safety and thus reduce burden on the system proactively? Could we help our workers avoid chronic illnesses and obesity by, for instance, regulating soda and sugar consumption on the job? These are all “out of the box” ideas that may or may not be useful, but it’s critical to at least search for “win-win” solutions that will help the state, small businesses and hurt and sick workers alike.

If you need help with a North Carolina workers’ compensation issue, connect with an experienced and highly reputed law firm to protect your rights.

More Web Resources:

North Carolina General Assembly

proposed General Assembly changes to workers’ comp


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