Recently, National Public Radio (NPR) published a news series condemning changes in our country’s workers’ comp system which have made it increasingly difficult for injured workers, including airline pilots, flight crew, grounds crew, tug drivers, airport skycaps and other airport workers, to collect the benefits to which they are entitled. Click here to read our analysis of the NPR series.
It turns out the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agrees with most of the criticisms published in the NPR report.
An OSHA report released just a day after the NPR series ran says that changes in workers’ compensation have made it “increasingly difficult for injured workers to receive the full benefits” and that employers provide only a small fraction of the overall financial cost of workplace injuries and illnesses through workers’ compensation.
OSHA reports that workers’ compensation payments cover only about 21% of lost wages and medical costs of work injuries and illnesses; workers, their families and their private health insurance pay for nearly 63% of these costs, with taxpayers shouldering the remaining 16%.
Injured airline and airport worker attorney Doug Landau wonders why taxpayers should be saddled with these costs. “I and every other employer of more than three people pay into an Uninsured Employers Fund to protect injured workers whose companies do not have comp insurance,” notes Landau. “If the insurance industry is going to collect the premiums, the costs of benefits should not be foisted upon local, state, and federal governments.”
Other studies have shown that fewer than 40% of eligible workers even file for workers’ comp benefits. Landau notes the irony in that statistic: “Insurance companies are collecting premiums and yet in 40% of case there is no request for comp benefits, and in many of the cases where there is a request, the carriers either deny the claims, fail to pay benefits or delay for so long that the benefit is illusory !”