On Workers' Compensation


Workers compensation raises large issues of public policy that have important and immediate consequences for working people. Often ignored by public health advocates, workers' compensation is a vital part of the social safety net which protects the some of the most vulnerable sectors of our population.

On a national level, as one analyst has noted, “Workers insured under workers’ compensation are, in most instances, not receiving the benefits to which they are entitled. State workers’ compensation systems currently pay for less than one third of the total cost of occupational injury and illness in the United States, shifting most of these costs to individual workers, their families, private medical insurance, and taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid (LaDou 2010). Ten times as many severely disabled occupational disease victims receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or early retirement benefits as receive workers’ compensation benefits (Reville & Schoeni 2003/2004).

There are many stakeholders who have strong financial interests in the system.  Insurance companies profit off the system; doctors, chiropractors, psychologists and lawyers receive fees to treat or represent workers or insurance companies. These are just a few of the parties with vested interests in this system that nationally costs more than $80 billion per year. These constituencies may have interests that conflict with the interests of the injured worker or other stakeholders. This makes it difficult to accomplish the reforms necessary to ensure that workers' compensation provides adequate medical treatment and wage replacement for injured workers.


An excellent resource for information about workers' compensation can be found at www.workerscomphub.org

American Public Health Association Resolution on Workers'Compensation, October 10, 2009, Policy No. 20097

Current Problems in the Workers' Compensation System, paper by James Ellenberger, 2010

White Paper on the State of the Workers' Compensation System in New York State 2008, Robert Grey, Esq., of Grey & Grey L.L.P.

Study Says Many Firms Cheat New York's Workers' Comp System, The New York Times, 2007

New York State Workers' Compensation: How Big is the Coverage Shortfall?, report by the Fiscal Policy Institute, 2007

The Politics of Workers' Compensation in New York State: a New Solutions article by Greg Tarpinian, Dom Tuminaro, Joel Shufro that ran in 1997 and is still relevant today.

More than Meets the Eye: Aspects of Social, Financial and Emotional Impacts of Work-Related Injury and Illness, powerpoint by Michael Lax and Rosemary Klein 

Workers' Compensation Fraud: The Real Story, report prepared for the Injured Workers Bar Assn., New York State, 1998

AMA Guides Mean Major Benefit Cuts for Injured Workers, by The Center on Worker Injury Policy 

Why Unions Must Oppose the AMA Guides, The Center on Worker Injury Policy

Congressional Testimony:

Written statement by Emily Spieler of Northeastern Univ. Law School, U.S. House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Nov. 2010

Statement on Workers' Compensation and its Relationship with Social Security Disability Insurance by John Burton, Jr., of Rutgers Univ. and Cornell Univ. U.S. House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Nov. 2010

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