I would like to put forth a modest proposal. What if workers’ compensation were used only for work-related injuries?
Imagine a system where an employee could claim that an injury was caused by industrial activities, and after establishing that this was more likely than not to be so, could receive benefits.
This way, California’s employers would be responsible for the injuries caused by their business activities while at the same time would not be burdened with being general insurers against all the ills and harm that one can suffer in life.
Now consider Senate Bill 213, which is snaking its way through the Legislature and has as much chance of becoming law in California as anything else: “This bill would create rebuttable presumptions that [pretty much all injuries] that develop or manifest in a hospital employee would who provides direct patient care in an acute care hospital arose out of and in the course of the employment.”
The proposed legislation would create a presumption of industrial causation for a whole host of injuries and conditions, including “infectious diseases, cancer, musculoskeletal injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and respiratory disease.” This presumption would apply even after the employee is no longer employed, depending on the condition, for up to three months for every year worked, up to 10 years.
For musculoskeletal injuries, as for respiratory diseases, an “injury that develops or manifests in a hospital employee who provides direct patient care in an acute care hospital shall not be attributed to a disease existing prior to that development or manifestation.”
All of us, whether we are chronically unemployed or working 80 hour weeks all year every year, are exposed to all sorts of illnesses or maladies. SB 213 does one thing only: It makes hospitals, in their capacity as employers, liable for most of these maladies.
Yes, hospital work and patient care are hard and sometimes result in injuries, and when they do, California already provides an insanely low bar to get compensation. SB 213 shifts the burden to hospitals to prove that a condition was NOT caused by work activities.
What fallout can we expect if such a law goes into effect? Costs for operating hospitals go up and fewer resources for patient care. Hospitals are already providing workers’ comp coverage and benefits for legitimate workers’ compensation injuries, but would also be forced to eat the cost of injuries that are not work-related.
How do I know? Because work-related injuries are already being covered without this presumption.
Hopefully, the good folks in Sacramento will have a realization that slaughtering every industry in California is not good policy, hospitals included.
Gregory Grinberg is managing partner of Gale, Sutow & Associates’ S.F. Bay South office and a certified specialist in workers’ compensation law. This post is reprinted with permission from Grinberg’s WCDefenseCA blog.
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