New proposals to cut the benefits for injured workers have been introduced in both houses of the legislature and there will no doubt be attempts to force these proposals into the budget. These proposals would devastate the livelihoods of injured workers and their families. They would shift the responsibility of insurance companies to pay for the care and treatment of injured workers to social service programs and burden state and local property taxpayers with the cost.
Workplace injuries and illness have a devastating effect on workers and their families. Most lose large percentages of their incomes if they cannot work. On top of that, injured workers face a nightmare of litigation, challenges to the care they need and delays in the process of receiving wage replacement.
The truth is, the cost of benefits for workers is only a portion of the overall premium that is charged to employers. The new proposals do not even consider the expenses of insurance companies and other interests including billing companies, private investigators, independent medical examiners and dozens of other vendors that make tremendous profits off the system but stymie the ability of injured workers to access care and benefits.
In addition to reducing the costs outlined above, there are numerous other ways to reduce employer costs without benefit cuts. We should quantify savings already built into the system and specifically target it to premium reduction. We should examine the ratemaking process itself and we should maximize the use of discount programs for employers with above average or improved safety records.
The NYS AFL-CIO will work to find other meaningful but fair savings for employers. But first and foremost we will fight any attempts to reduce the benefits to injured workers and their families.
Mario Cilento, President