Washington Ballot Initiative Stokes Debate among North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Policy Analysts

July 12, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

Initiative 1082 — way up in Washington State — has sparked a firestorm of debate and controversy among North Carolina workers’ compensation analysts. Ordinarily, a statewide initiative in a far off part of the country would not rile up insurers, business owners, injured workers, and state bureaucrats. But the vocal debate out of Washington has served as a touchtone for a number of issues hotly being discussed right here in NC.

Facts about the Initiative, and Implications for North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Politics

The Building Industry Association of Washington – regarded as a politically conservative group – sponsored I-1082 to crack the state monopoly on workers’ comp. To qualify for the ballot, the measure needed 241,000 signatures – allegedly, it got nearly 100,000 signatures above that mark. Clearly, many Washingtonians are fired up. Sponsors argue that the current system sticks business owners with high insurance premiums and allows injured workers to enjoy overly-plump benefits. Opponents of I-1082 say that introducing a for-profit component into the workers’ comp system could degrade benefits and lead to claims being delayed or denied.

Both opponents and proponents of the initiative claim that the implications of I-1082’s passage for the state could be profound. Currently, Washington is one of only four states that does not allow companies to privately compete with a state-run workers’ comp system.

The North Carolina workers’ compensation system allows private insurers to compete – so the WA debate can be relevant only indirectly. However, the growing frustration among business owners regarding workers’ comp costs – and the simultaneous growing health problems among workers, including chronic occupational diseases and medical conditions like obesity and diabetes – may well portend a sea-change in the next few years, economically speaking.

Can small businesses survive a clunky economy and potentially a double dip recession? Can hurt employees – many of whom may soon start to lose their unemployment benefits – survive if their benefits get curtailed or restricted?

If you or a coworker or a family member has been experiencing difficulties collecting your benefits, connect ASAP with an attorney to advise you. A free and confidential consultation with a North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer can help protect your rights and ensure your family’s financial stability.

More Web Resources:

Initiative 1082

Workers comp initiative steps closer to ballot