Upcoming Ballot Initiative Bad for the Workers Compensation System and Injured Workers
Our state will be entering “election season” this summer, which means our team will be keeping an eye on the upcoming ballot initiative regarding Workers Compensation Insurance and injured workers. Typically our agency does not discuss or promote politics, however we’ve decided with this particular amendment it’s important for us to educate our clients. Amendment 69 is a very dangerous and destructive Amendment to our state Constitution and will be on the ballot this fall. If passed, it will create very devastating consequences to our state and its citizens. We will be continuing to post articles in the coming months regarding information about this ballot issue because it will effect Colorado in numerous and different ways and we’d like to discuss these individually.
This month we’d like to explain how Amendment 69 will be bad for businesses and their employees through the worker’s compensation system. (For more information about a general understanding of the amendment, read our prior article, “Understanding Amendment 69, ColoradoCare.”) ColoradoCare would amend the state constitution to replace Medicaid and all private insurance with a single-payer health care system in Colorado. But it will also decimate Colorado’s workers’ compensation system by requiring that the health care portion of worker’s comp be paid through ColoradoCare. That will be bad for both Colorado business and their employees.
Amendment 69 will gut the workers’ compensation system and all insurance carriers providing workers’ compensation insurance in our state. Under current law, workers’ comp insurance covers the health care needs of injured workers and replaces their lost wages for as long as they are out of work, even if they are permanently disabled. Because Amendment 69 will put the health care portion of workers’ comp into the ColoradoCare system, workers’ comp insurers will be left with only the wage replacement (indemnity) portion. Carriers that are able to do so-i.e. , all but Pinnacol (our state program)- will likely leave the state: an indemnity-only business where there is no ability to manage costs is not a recipe for success. That could leave Pinnacol as the sole insurer of indemnity costs – a risky position that could then leave the only workers’ compensation provider in our state on a road to disaster and insolvency.
Amendment 69 will cost Colorado businesses money and productivity. Amendment 69’s backers claim that shifting the health care portion of workers’ comp to ColoradoCare will reduce employers’ comp costs by 59%. Of course, those costs aren’t going away, they are simply being shifted. And any work comp savings would be eroded quickly by a loss of worker productivity and an increase in lost wage costs. ColoradoCare won’t have mechanisms in place to do all the things current insurance carriers do: work with employers to keep workers safe and minimize the potential for injury, and work with providers to help injured workers get back to work in a timely and safe way. As a result, workers may be away from their jobs longer, and wage replacement costs for employers will increase.
Amendment 69 won’t serve the needs of injured workers. In the current workers’ compensation system, when someone gets hurt on the job, they are treated by specially accredited providers who use medical treatment guidelines specifically developed to diagnose and improve an injured worker’s level of function. But ColoradoCare doesn’t provide for this specialized approach to caring for injured workers. That’s a disservice to anyone hurt on the job. In addition, workers’ comp covers incidental expenses such as transportation to/from doctor appointments for injured workers. It is not likely that ColoradoCare will do that.
The adverse impact on the workers’ compensation system and injured employees from Amendment 69 cannot be overestimated. In the coming months we will provide you with information regarding the effects this amendment could have on other areas of our state, such as health care, small business, taxes and our economy as a whole. In the meantime, if you are interested, please go to ColoradansforColoradans.com for more information.