Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Private Insurance Systems Plague Health Care Reform

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Private Insurance Systems Plague Health Care Reform

Article excerpt

First, it would require Congress, which does not have a committee with experience in the subject, to restructure workers compensation. That system, the nation's oldest social insurance program, includes comparatively liberal guarantees to labor, dating to early in this century.

Workers compensation differs markedly today from standard health insurance. Coverage starts from the first day of employment; it requires no co-payments or deductibles, and it does not restrict one's choice of a physician.

In addition, once a worker is injured, the employer in most states is forever responsible for medical and disability costs, even if the employee goes to work somewhere else. And there is no ceiling on the amount of treatment.

Merging workers compensation into health care reform would likely amount to asking labor unions for "givebacks" of benefits.

James N. Ellenberger, the assistant director of the Department of Occupational Safety and Health for the AFL-CIO, said his organization would support the merging of workers compensation into standard health care coverage, but only if the union does not have to give up many benefits.

Workers must pay no out-of-pocket expenses for treatment of workplace injuries, he said, and there must be no dollar limit on coverage. Second, insurers argue that one advantage of the current workers compensation system is that the more accidents take place in a workplace, the more an employer's premiums go up. …

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