Could President Obama’s New Bill Reduce the Number of North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Cases?

July 23, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

On July 19, the Obama administration laid out a four-year path for state agencies to improve safety standards and limit North Carolina workers’ compensation cases (and cases in the other 49 states, as well!). Obama’s memo noted that in 2009, 79,000+ claims were filed and $1.6 billion in payments were handed out. The President said “many of these work-related injuries and illnesses are preventable, and executive departments can and should do even more to improve work place safety and health.”

The President’s initiative, Protecting Our Workers and Ensuring Reemployment (POWER) compels agencies to improve in 7 categories of performance by the close of FY 2014. These include reducing total injury/illness rates, reducing lost time and illness rates, analyzing lost time data, increasing the timely filing of wage loss and workers’ comp claims, reducing loss production rates, and speeding employees’ return to their jobs. On Wednesday, the House Committee will further explore how to deal with federal workplace injuries.

How will POWER impact the North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system? At this point, it’s obviously too early to tell. Clearly, if relevant agencies can impose stricter standards to simultaneously promote better care, better service, and faster re-employment, this would be a win-win-win for all parties concerned. But some critics worry that, in their rush to comply with POWER, agencies might accidentally (or purposefully) disempower some claimants. For instance, by trying to enforce point number 7 of POWER’s Plan (speeding employees back to work), agencies might inadvertently compel seriously injured or sick people to take on work that they are not ready for yet. Of course, it’s obviously way too early to weigh in on the merits of this order, but it is certain to change the playing field.

Do you or a loved one need help with your workers’ comp case? Have you been having trouble with your insurance company, employer, or provider? If so, consider getting the advice of a respected and credentialed North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney today.

More Web Resources:

Protecting Our Workers and Ensuring Reemployment

WaPo opinion on POWER