South Carolina Considers Other Workers’ Compensation Legislation
A number of states including Oklahoma and Texas currently allow employers to elect an employer injury plan over state mandated insurance coverage. South Carolina recently considered similar workers’ compensation legislation through House Bill 4197, which was proposed this time last year. The bill, introduced by Representative David Hiott of Pickens, is referred to as “The South Carolina Employee Injury Benefit Plan Alternative.” According to the Insurance Journal, the bill would allow South Carolina employers to exempt themselves from obtaining such state-mandated insurance coverage, and instead permit them to obtain certification from the SC Department of Insurance and provide coverage through an employer injury plan.
According to a new study released by the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC), injured workers face “inherent conflict of interest” and “unequal treatment” when employers opt out of state-regulated workers’ compensation. The study focused on Oklahoma law which has allowed employers to offer their own workplace injury plans since 2014. The South Carolina bill was examined as well.
While the employer controlled plans in the IAIABC study did benefit workers in the case of generous companies, the study found that this was not always the case. Few state-mandated benefits, little government oversight, and heavy employer control “[allow] the possibility of minimal statutory benefits, stringent claims determinations, and a dispute process that seems unfair to claimants.” This system can often make it more difficult for workers to obtain medical treatment and lost wage payments.
However, Alison Morantz, a law professor at Stanford University, conducted a study that looked at large Texas companies which offered their own plans, and she found that those companies were able to reduce their injured worker costs by 44 percent after opting out of state-mandated coverage. Yet, while the study did determine that employers were able to cut costs through such alternative plans, she did not examine whether or not employees were better off under these plans. Morantz wrote: “some employees clearly fare worse” in these situations.
The changing landscape of how the government and employers handle workers’ compensation benefits can leave numerous questions and concerns for workers in our state. At the Strom Law Firm, we handle workers’ compensation claims in South Carolina and Georgia, and we are here to help. In the event that you or a loved one is hurt on the job and need help navigating the increasingly complicated process of receiving the benefits you deserve, call us at (803) 252-4800 for a free consultation. You can also visit our South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers page for more information.
Do you think employers should be permitted to obtain their own worker injury plans, circumventing state-mandated coverage? Leave your opinion in the comment section below!