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Crackpot Idea: What if Workers Picked and Paid for WC Insurance?

Your humble blogger has friends from all walks of life – I talk with crowds and keep my virtue, I walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch.  So, it should come as no surprise that as I and my circle of friends were sipping tea and grumbling about our lives into the wee hours, an idea was hatched.

Did this idea have to do with Workers’ Compensation? Yes!

Is it a crackpot idea to reform the workers’ compensation system? Yes!

Am I about to bore you with another Utopian pipe dream, the only redeeming quality of which is that literally ANY system has the potential to improve California’s workers’ comp jungle? Oh, you better believe that’s a yes!

The Anarchist at the table, having heard my ranting about workers’ compensation, made the point that if employers can shift the responsibility of buying car insurance for employee delivery drivers to the employees (see Craigslist for any number of driver positions that require the applicant to have his or her own car and insurance), why can’t the employer do the same for workers’ compensation insurance?

After all, if the experience modification that determines the workers’ compensation rate (to some extent) is determined by the number of injuries the worker sustains and the extent of the injuries, the worker himself has the incentive to work safely and careful and keep his premium down.  Also, he can shop around for the company he trusts and that will promptly pay benefits rather than try to stonewall him.  The injured worker could even base his choice on such options as (1) the Medical Provider Network in the area or (2) the pre-authorization of treatment.  Unions could pool their resources to purchase policies for their members.

The response quickly came from the Communist (the Democrat and the Republican at the table were both already planning their move out of California and quickly lost interest in the arrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic).  The Communist, calling on his experience with labor union and the plight of the working class made a good point: what incentive would the employer have for returning injured workers to their jobs or even providing a safe work environment?  After all, why bother with safety training or equipment when workers become disposable and someone else is footing the insurance bill?

At that point, your humble blogger stepped out for some fresh air, but upon my return, this compromise seems to have been reached: the best system would require the injured worker to purchase his or her own insurance, and would require the employer to reimburse the employee for half of the premium (some employers, no doubt, would offer to reimburse the entire policy as a competitive recruitment tool, and some employers could continue to provide the coverage as they do now).  This way, both the employee and the employer would have a vested interest in a safe working environment, a responsible insurer, and a careful and responsible work force.

What do you think dear readers?  Are the abused employees of California just seeing another attempt to further squeeze their meager purses by a heartless defense attorney?  Or is this a breath of air to stoke the dying fire of California’s economy?

Now, again, dear readers, before you sharpen your pitchforks, light your torches, and angrily demand a refund on your blog subscription dues, just recall: this is yet another crackpot idea.  It’s something to think about and to (hopefully) encourage a bit of discussion on why we have a system like we do, and what we should do about it.

Happy Hump Day!

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  1. April 9th, 2014 at 08:44 | #1

    Isn’t that kind of what is being done with ACA?

  2. Injured worker
    April 9th, 2014 at 16:43 | #2

    How about making it easier, the employer doesn’t have to provide insurance and neither does the employee, instead the employee is allowed to sue the employer.

    • Gregory Grinberg
      April 9th, 2014 at 21:09 | #3

      Injured Worker – that is what some states do, such as Texas and Oklahoma (I believe). They allow their employers to “opt out” and go back to civil court. The problem with this is that question of fault comes back into play and the benefits don’t get provided to the workers until the case is over, which could take several years.

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