Making Workers' Compensation Great Again: How will Trump's Presidency Affect the Industry?
Washington, DC (WorkersCompensation.com) - Like the rest of the nation, workers’ compensation experts are wondering how President Trump's campaign promise to make America great again will affect their field and policy.
The first and apparent change will come from stronger immigration policies, according to Joe Paduda, author of Managed Care Matters blog and principal associate of Health Strategy Associates, a national consulting firm based out of New York.
"If Trump follows through on the deportations, what that will do is decrease employment in the construction trades and increase the wages, because these undocumented workers are likely working at wages that are lower than trade unions," Paduda said, adding when wages go up premiums rise.
"The other part is that these new workers coming in will likely be less experienced and therefore their injury rate is going to go up, because they don't just have the same experience," he added.
West Coast attorney Marc Marcus, who has practiced law for four decades throughout the Sacramento area, said President Trump's policies on immigration would have a huge effect in California.
"California has a lot of immigrant workers, documented and otherwise," Marcus told WorkersCompensation.com in an email. He said West Coast employers historically look the other way when hiring undocumented employees. "We have a strong bias in favor of protecting immigrants, even those who are undocumented," he added.
A member of the California Applicant Attorneys Board of Directors and Legislative Committee, Marcus said California currently has a super majority of Democrats in both Houses in Sacramento. "Our state legislature and a Democratic governor has made known it's intention to challenge Trump’s stance on immigration and to protect all working Californians, documented or not," he said of the state that has a ten percent workforce of undocumented employees.
Georgia workers’ compensation attorney Shari Miltiades strongly agrees. She said Georgia, like California, has both undocumented and documented workers who are "treated the same irrespective of their status."
"When a person is injured on the job they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits whether they are here legally or illegally. There have been efforts over the years to try and remove undocumented workers from eligibility. I can see something like that being more successful under the Trump Administration rather than the Obama Administration," Miltiades said. She said the real question her and colleagues ponder is "how do you prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers in the first place? That's the $64-million-dollar question here."
Miltiades also wonders where seasonal guest workers stand as far as workers’ compensation is concerned. "In Georgia, immigrants are brought in annually to help harvest onions. The onion companies literally take a bus to Mexico, hire a bunch of workers, house them, pay them and clothe them through the harvesting season," she said. "I am curious to see if there are any changes in the guest worker policies that have been going on forever."
Trade wars and the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will also affect workers’ compensation polices, according to Paduda. "If he (President Trump) does follow through on his campaign promises on trade wars, that is going to hurt manufacturing significantly. Specifically, because manufacturers rely on parts to build cars, computers, televisions and everything. When manufacturers don't have the material they need to build what they are making, then employment decreases," Paduda said.
"When that happens, we ultimately see injury rate increases because people say, 'I may ultimately be laid off so why not file for workers’ compensation on this injury I have been nursing,'" he added. An ACA repeal could also cause serious repercussions to policy, according to Paduda. He said many insured under the ACA have it "through Medicaid, where there are no deductibles or co pays."
"To a worker it doesn't matter if they get it through Medicaid or workers’ compensation as far as a medical perspective," he said. "If ACA goes away, workers comp medical costs are going to spike up again."
Only time will tell exactly how workers’ compensation will change under the Trump Administration. Until then, the only assurance on the insurance is that it will likely change.