Medical costs are never cheap, and in Wisconsin, they’re especially high for people that get hurt on the job. What could have combated this issue is a bill, recently passed by the state Senate, redefining what workers’ compensation is.
Every two years, labor leaders sit down with an advisory council to refine workers’ compensation, giving labor and other leaders a chance to legislate a way to lower medical costs.
While I take issue with some of these proposals, I am more stunned no effort was made to address the rising medical costs. Frankly, these proposals address nothing.
The Worker’s Compensation Research Institute compiled a price index for worker’s compensation payments based on the consumer price index from 2002 to 2013. What was found is Wisconsin paid by far the most on average for medical costs related to workers’ comp at the end of 2013.
There are some limitations to this study. It only examined the 25 states that pay out the most in compensation, but these states represented 80 percent of money given out. So of the states that give out the most money, Wisconsin does it the most inefficiently.
This makes it all the more surprising that this bill does nothing to fix any of these inefficiencies.
During the last cycle of meetings between Wisconsin labor leaders and the advisory council, the bill that ended up being introduced included tight restrictions on how much doctors and therapists could be paid by workers’ comp insurance.
Due to a strong opposition arguing it shifted the cost of care onto medical providers too heavily, the bill never ended up being passed, and the actual reasons for high medical costs are the rate and severity of worker injuries.
Incidence and severity do not negate insufficiencies within the system. By not even attempting to alleviate these problems, Wisconsin has taken the attitude that they do not exist, contrary to physical evidence.
Maybe in two years, Wisconsin will have the cajones to develop a workable solution to workers’ comp.
Aaron Reilly ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in comparative literature and Russian.