Workers’ Compensation Needs Fixing

The News Tribune has a good editorial today on workers’ compensation.  It questions opposition to the reform bill (ESB 5566) that passed the Senate.  Specifically, it questions opposition to the provision that would allow injured workers to choose a voluntary settlement instead of a pension.

There’s not much controversy over the subsidy part of the bill. But the lump sum provision, which should not be controversial, appears to be getting turned into a litmus test of loyalty to organized labor.

The fact is, the Senate – which is run by Democrats – went out of its way to make the lump sum option fair to workers. . . .

This proposal came from a Democratic governor, Chris Gregoire, and is supported by Lisa Brown, the Senate’s Democratic majority leader. Forty-four other states, blue and red, already offer the lump sum option; Washington is an outlier in denying workers a choice on the matter.

Pragmatic Democrats have joined Republicans and business leaders in supporting this measure for an excellent reason: It promises to help contain the costs of a system that has long been on an unsustainable trajectory.

We took a look at those unsustainable costs in a policy brief last week.
PS:  The Wenatchee World piles on:
If this reform bill is death for a just system, it is hard to see how. The primary reform only adopts an option used in all but six states, and reduces lifetime pensions that go to a small number of workers yet account for a huge percentage of the system’s cost. Finding some way to reduce risks of insolvency and subsequent hikes in the tax on employment doesn’t sound like much of a right-wing business plot. It only makes sense.