Two bills introduced in Tennessee's General Assembly earlier this year seeks to alter the rules of workers compensation, allowing employers to opt-out if they implement their own occupational injury benefits plan, with commercial insurance or by self-insurance. The bills, if passed, would establish a Tennessee Employee Injury Benefit Alternative (TEIBA), based on a free-market approach.
The bill remains controversial amongst employees, insurers and the State Workers Compensation Board, which voted against recommending the bill as it was originally proposed. Firms that choose to opt-out entirely would be considered non-subscribers and could be open to catastrophic injury lawsuits.
The plan follows a similar one already in place in Oklahoma and Texas. An investigate report, released this morning by National Public Radio and ProPublica, reveals many troubling aspects of this plan.
The architect of the plan, an attorney working on behalf of large employers such as Walmart and Lowes, argues the plan will reduce costs to employers while encouraging them to provide better coverage and safety measures to avoid exposing themselves to a lawsuit. However, details of the plan reveal little advantages for injured employees.
For example, employer insurance plans arent required to pay for permanent disability. In Texas, they can cut off treatment after two years, unlike workers comp, which provides lifetime medical coverage. The plan also gives employers multiple tools to deny claims, such as the ability to choose the doctor and even choose the settlement amount. If the employee doesn't accept, they lose all benefits.
Interviews with workers also tell a different story. One woman, suffering from a spinal injury, was denied coverage for missing the 24-hour notification window by a few hours after her initial hospital visit, despite being on heavy medication. Another man was denied coverage for his hernia treatment after a slip-and-fall, because the new rules excluded hernias above the belly button.
With the ability to create arbitrary reasons to deny health care, many critics see this as a dangerous policy. A workplace injury can be devastating, causing pain, suffering, loss of wages, and requiring a lifetime of costly medical treatment. If you are pursuing a claim with the Tennessee Workers Compensation Bureau, make sure to consult with an attorney.
At the law offices of Greg Coleman Law, our Knoxville workers compensation lawyers will fight to get the maximum compensation you need. Contact us today.