If there was a common theme to the responses in our recent survey on Minimum State Standards for Workers' Compensation, it was that the majority of respondents would like to see them; but not from the federal level. For this unscientific survey, which closed last week, we asked five basic questions of our audience:
Do you believe that there should be basic minimum standards for workers' compensation benefits that all states must meet?
Do you believe that there should be basic standards regarding workers' comp regulatory procedures and reporting requirements for all states to follow?
If you believe that there should be basic minimum standards for either/or workers' comp regulatory process and benefits, who should establish those standards?
Do you believe the US Government should federalize workers' comp?
And finally, do you think there should be another Federal Commission on Workers' Compensation, similar to that assembled in 1972?
A strong majority of respondents (76.92%) indicated they believed that basic minimum benefits should exist for each state to adhere to. A slightly smaller, yet similar amount (72.53%) indicated there should be basic standards regarding regulatory procedures and reporting requirements for all states to follow. On the question of who should be responsible for establishing these standards, the results were less clear. 37.36% of participants said the states should do so via a special conference. An even amount, 18.68%, each said that the Federal government or academic institutions should be given the task.
However, to the question of whether the US Government should just federalize comp, the resounding answer was “no,” with 80.22% choosing that option. Most interestingly to me, was that despite the overwhelming opposition to federal involvement in comp, a slight majority, 52.75%, said that the US Government should in fact establish a new commission like it did in 1972.
So, my takeaway from this is that the majority of professionals in our industry want basic minimum benefits to prevent “race to the bottom scenarios,” as well as simplified regulation and oversight, provided that we establish those standards at the state level without federal involvement; except a federal commission to produce suggestions would be OK with a slight majority.
Very interesting indeed.
Looking at just those people who said “yes” to minimum state benefits, opposition to federal involvement softened only a bit (74.29% were against it). However, the feeling that the states were responsible for establishing such standards earned almost 10% more votes, coming in at just over 47%. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the people who thought comp should be federalized were far more in lockstep in their views. 100% wanted minimum benefits as well as minimum regulatory standards, and 64.3% believed the federal government should be the one to create them. Of course, why 35.7% of the group that want a fed takeover think some other entity should create the standards is beyond me.
Personally, while I think basic minimum standards would alleviate the competitive pressures surrounding state workers' compensation programs, I am highly doubtful that the states could collectively achieve that lofty goal. Similarly, I have complete distrust in any type of federal intervention into our system – I think that is fraught with peril on numerous levels.
And I am even more dubious of academic solutions to our issues.
One of the most interesting results of this survey were found in the comments section that we included for this effort. There were some very thoughtful comments made, and people appear to feel strongly about the issue. The comments were published in the original summary, and are worth the time to look over.
Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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