Revamp workers' comp

Sunday, January 23, 2005

When an employee of a business is injured on the job, the worker is entitled to a workers' compensation claim. Worker's comp programs are administered by states as a form of insurance. Expenses of on-the-job injuries are paid from a pool of money that is funded by workers' comp contributions from employers.

In order to keep money in Missouri's workers' comp fund, premiums that employers pay have been rising significantly in recent years even while workers' comp costs in neighboring states have remained much lower and while Missouri has seen a 17 percent drop in the number of claims. The Division of Workers' Compensation blames the increased costs on the rising cost of health care.

But many business owners see other reasons. One frequently mentioned example is claims allowed for workers who are injured while legally drunk in violation of company policies. Other claims approved for workers' comp payments also have raised eyebrows.

The disparity in workers' comp costs compared to surrounding states creates a poor climate for new business. And many existing businesses struggle to pay the rising premiums -- money that could be used for expansion that would create more jobs.

Legislators who want to revamp Missouri's program are on the right track. There has to be a way to control these costs while still giving employees a fair shake.

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