Workers’ Compensation Reform Is Right For Tennessee - And Response (3)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - by Rep. Kevin Brooks

“It matters who governs.” That was the mantra of the Tennessee House Republicans before we achieved a majority and we were asking Tennesseans to place their trust in us. We pledged that if given the monumental task of governing, we would implement reforms that taxpayers deserved and demanded. We promised to make government more efficient, to streamline our operations, and to continually strive to make improvements to the overall legislative process.

Tennessee is one of the most fiscally conservative states in the nation, with low taxes, very little debt, and a balanced budget every year. Because of that, our state has done an excellent job of attracting new businesses and inspiring local entrepreneurs. This year, we built on those good policies by reforming Tennessee’s workers’ compensation laws to ensure the system is fairer, more efficient, and provides better outcomes for both employers and employees.

When Governor Haslam and lawmakers met with small business owners all across the state prior to this year’s legislative session, they were in agreement that the top issue was Tennessee’s worker’s compensation system. Workers’ Compensation is an insurance program, adopted in Tennessee in 1919, that compensates employees for injuries they suffer on the job. Employers are required to carry workers’  compensation insurance to cover the costs of medical expenses and lost wages of employees when they suffer work-related injuries. There is no question, the workers’ compensation system itself is something our state needs and will always have in case a worker is injured on the job.

Recently, however, both employers and employees have discovered numerous problems with current workers’ compensation laws. Indeed, the current process for determining benefits is cumbersome for determining injury benefits, unpredictable and time-consuming, and employees are often unable to receive benefits and return to work in a timely manner. In addition, workers’ compensation rates for employers in Tennessee are higher than the national average and higher than all eight of our bordering states. 

With these issues in mind, Tennessee Republicans committed to creating a workers’ compensation system that provides protection and faster service for employees, while creating a more fair and predictable environment in which to conduct business and create jobs. The Workers’  Compensation Reform Act of 2013 will give all Tennessean’s a more fair and streamlined system of reconciling workers’ compensation claims. 

Under the new system, workers will see a reduction in the time it takes to receive permanent benefits and will also experience an improvement in medical treatment. The process for resolving disputes will be quicker, allowing injured workers to receive compensation and return to work sooner so they can continue to earn a paycheck and provide for their families. In addition, injured workers will have the services of an ombudsman whose role is to answer questions, explain the workers’  compensation process, and help employees complete paperwork.

On top of the improved benefits for employees, employers will also see a system that aids in creating an environment where businesses can grow and thrive. By making our workers’ compensation system more fair and efficient, Tennessee will continue on its path of becoming the number one state in the Southeast for high-quality jobs.

Your Tennessee General Assembly is committed to crafting a fiscally responsible, balanced budget, streamlining government, cutting taxes, and reforming the overall governmental process. This year, we are building on our prior successes by spearheading efforts like the Workers’ Compensation Reform Act to make Tennessee an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.

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Rep. Kevin Brooks serves the 24th Legislative District in Cleveland, Tn., and Bradley County.  Kevin and his wife, Kim are actively involved in their community and local schools with their two children, Zach who is attending Lee University and Elizabeth who attends Cleveland High.

* * *

Ok..I can't stand it anymore. There is nothing good for an injured worker in this bill...anywhere. Stop saying it. Just say you are railroading injured workers in this state and let's get on with it.

An injured worker under this proposed system can lose his/her job through no fault of his/her own and see the house go into foreclosure in 10 to 20 weeks under a typical scenario. Seriously, injured workers are the easiest to target by big business because they don't know who they are yet... the next worker asked to clean a known toxic area without warning or care, the next one to have a wall fall on them while renovating a structure the employer did not care to ensure was safe, the individual told to chip concrete while the employer sends a crew to knock out rocks and debris on the structure directly above....all actual examples ...just to name a few.

This bill casts them aside like yesterday's garbage. I predict a political backlash from this bill when no Tennessee business owner, including myself, will see any change whatsoever in costs and ruined families mount up over time.

Jay Kennamer
McMahan Law Firm

* * *

Mr. Jay Kennamer, I'm confused with your response.  Why?  Well you say with this new reform injured workers could lose their jobs even though they're victims of a workplace injury.  I was a victim of a workplace accident, spent 11 days in the hospital and was in rehab for 2 months.  The company I worked for fired me 2 weeks before the workmens' comp doctor released me.  They were not held accountable for that and I had engaged an attorney through the entire process.  What am I missing here?
 
For me personally the entire workmens' comp process is nothing more than an insurance company turning an already damaged employee into a bankrupt human being.  It's a disgrace from top to bottom that is geared towards making the victim feel like a useless employee that's "playing the system", too lazy to get back into the workforce and in a nutshell...scum.
 
They hire Nurse Ratchett who lives thousands of miles away from you to manage your care, it's her decisions that you live or, in some cases, die by.  When I was released from the hospital my Nurse Ratchett refused to authorize the ok for blood thinning meds because she didn't believe they were needed even though I was in the hospital for DVT's!  Thank God for the pharmacy that literally gave me the drug and I settled up with them once I could get to the bank.  My Nurse Ratchett stopped my benefits because I "wasn't trying hard enough to walk", that I was "just afraid of a little pain".  DVT's have a way of incompaciting a person quicker than you can imagine but then SHE didn't find it a problem to practice medicine long distance.
 
IF Tennessee is serious about reforming their Workmens' Compensation Program they need to start with that nasty insurance company and leave the hurt and damaged worker alone.  And for the few that do play this system, thank you for making it life or death for those of us with personal ethics and integrity that are trying to play by the rules. 
 
M White

lwhite61@bellsouth.net

* * *

The Republican political philosophy as promoted by Rep. Kevin Brooks and the majority of other Republicans like him:  Socialism for the wealthy, rough free market capitalism for the masses.  Lets throw a little churchgoing in for good measure.  There it is, all in a nutshell.  

Stephen Durham



 

 


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