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Missouri Senate Bill Brings Occupational Diseases Home to Workers’ Comp

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In 2005 the state of Missouri did something unusual. It removed Occupational Diseases from the realm of workers’ compensation, opting instead to let those cases be handled in traditional civil courts.

This week the state Senate has taken firm steps to return these cases to workers’ comp, bringing better cost certainty to the businesses in that state. It passed SB572, the primary objective of which was to reincorporate occupational disease cases back into the comp system. According to an article published today in the Insurance Journal, “The legislation would also prevent illegal immigrants or people who are in prison from collecting workers’ compensation benefits.”

A similar bill is working its way through the house. Successful passage of a final bill seems likely.

I completely agree with the overall intent of this legislation. Bringing occupational illnesses back under the coverage of workers’ compensation aligns the state of Missouri with most other comp systems. The system was created to provide consistency, predictability and stability. It was known as the “great compromise”, and to selectively excise certain job related conditions from others seems oddly out of place. Critics of this bill claim that job related illnesses are much different, and have greater requirements than job related injuries, and therefore should not be in the comp arena, but I believe this is an unfair comparison. Certainly a sprained ankle does come close to the personal devastation of black lung disease, but a worker turned quadriplegic certainly is in the same neighborhood.

How can we say one should be covered by workers’ comp, and the other left to fend for themselves in open court?

No, the 2005 legislation allowed for high dollar diseases to be leveraged by those who could best profit from them – and that was not always the ill and suffering worker. Returning this area to comp makes sense; for employers, employees and the workers’ compensation system in the state.

I have mixed emotions on the remaining elements of this legislation. I am pleased that it stops workers’ comp payments to those in prison. Workers’ compensation provides indemnity benefits for those who cannot work. Call me an old fashioned curmudgeon, but the concept of prison pretty much precludes the ability to work in the first place, does it not? What supposed employment are they compensated for?

I am not a fan however, of blocking medical benefits for injured workers here illegally. I am not supporting illegal immigration, but this strikes me as a politically popular showboat maneuver that completely fails to address the underlying problem. It stands to reason, if someone hires them, and pays premiums on them, we should not deny them care because it now is politically convenient to do so. 

But that’s probably a subject best held for a future discussion…..

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Subscribe to comments feed Comments (3 posted)

avatar
Kim Brown 02/22/2012 05:49:01
Hi Bob,
The legislature didn't really intend for this to happen but revisions to the Statute ended up removing language that had included the occupational injury aspect. The current revisions are to correct the error. As you might imagine, there are some politics involved here too but that's a subject for a different forum.
avatar
Denise Evans 02/22/2012 09:28:00
My only comment on this article would be you recognize that someone in jail should not be entitled to Temporary Total benefits because they are unable to work. But in the next area, on the illegal immigrant you feel they should be entitled to those same benefits with out recognizing that employers are in the same exact boat on this issue. Once the employer finds out the employee is an illegal immigrant that employer can no longer employ that individual. I agree medical benefit should be covered but at the point the employee can no longer be brought back even in a light duty capacity the temporary total benefits should be stopped.
avatar
WorkersCompensation.com 02/22/2012 09:46:53
Kim, thanks for that clarification. I believe that is what is called a "road paved with good intentions" :)

Denise - absolutely correct. My original draft omitted the word "medical" when referring to benefits for illegals. I have corrected that. My intentions were evident by the following line, where I referenced their "care", but I absolutely did not make myself clear. Thanks for pointing that out!

Bob
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