Advocating for Workers’ Compensation clients in Nebraska doesn’t just happen in the courtroom and office. Some of the most important advocacy for workers happens in State Legislatures, which is why I am glad to serve on the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorney’s (NATA) Legislative Committee.
This year in Nebraska a bill was proposed titled Workers Compensation: Medical Utilization and Treatment Guidelines. NATA opposed this bill because it would have allowed a doctor who never met an injured worker make unilateral decisions concerning that worker’s medical treatment. These decisions are not based on what is best for each individual injured worker, but rather on rigid guidelines based on what treatment usually works for a specific injury.
This is a bill that big insurance companies would love to see implemented, because it saves costs for them – even though insurance premiums have decreased lately. If your doctor, because of your medical history and conditions, feels that a treatment not on the medical guidelines would be best for you, the insurance company can essentially deny the treatment. They can also specify how long it should take you to be healed from your injury.
Many states have already passed a version of this bill into law.
The insurance companies have paid lobbyists to convince state legislators that these bills are great for the business interests in the state. The silent worker, however, usually pays the ultimate price for these “cost saving” measures. If they are denied necessary treatment, they often pay from their pocket, from private insurance, or from Medicare to get the care they need.
Workers’ Compensation has historically been considered the “grand bargain” between employers and employees. For over 100 years it has protected employees from the effects of work injuries, and also protects employers from personal injury lawsuits when an employee is injured due to negligence of the employer. The recent trend in legislation undermines workers’ compensation benefits, in reality, nullifies that “grand bargain.”