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Putting the hurt on workers’ comp

Here in Pennsylvania, virtually every employee is covered by workers' compensation. That includes part-time and seasonal workers, and it includes employees of nonprofit organizations, and even people who work for a company with a single employee. But plans are in place, and even unfolding in some parts of the country, to undo state-operated workers' compensation and let corporations design their own systems.

Will it happen in Pennsylvania? No one knows. But it has already happened in Texas and Oklahoma, where dozens of companies have opted out of state systems in order to create their own workers' comp plans. ProPublica and NPR analyzed 120 company plans and learned that they "almost universally have lower benefits, more restrictions and virtually no independent oversight." Surprise, surprise.

The investigation found some startling facts about Texas plans, for instance, where medical treatment is terminated after approximately two years. Even worse, most employees who have permanent disabilities from injuries sustained on the job do not receive compensation.

Compensation for catastrophic injuries and deaths in the workplace? Strictly limited by the plans created by "(m)any of the nation’s biggest retail, trucking, health care and food companies." The list includes Walmart, Sears, Taco Bell, Costco, Lowe's and McDonald's.

Here in Pennsylvania, if a worker is injured working in retail, fast food, a hardware store — or almost anywhere else — they can expect to be covered by workers' comp. If deserved benefits are denied, you have the right to appeal with the help of an attorney.

We'll have more on the changing landscape of workers' compensation in our next post.

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