Privatization a Bad Route for PEIA

Editor, News-Register:

Saving Ohio County schools money, forcing workers into disability and poverty: In response to the previous article in The Intelligencer, “Dealing With PEIA Challenge.”

As stated on West Virginia Public Broadcasting, injured workers suffer as reforms limit workers’ compensation benefits. Since 2003, legislators in 33 states have passed workers’ comp laws that reduce benefits or make it more difficult for those with certain injuries to qualify for them.

Employers and insurers such as Brickstreet Mutual Insurance Company increasingly control medical care based on the opinions of doctors who never see the patient. The doctor doesn’t have to be licensed in the state where the injury occurred. The doctors are paid by the insurance company and the employer.

The scope of the changes, and the extent to which taxpayers are paying the costs of workplace accidents, have attracted almost no national attention, in part because the federal government stopped monitoring state workers’ comp laws more than a decade ago.

The cuts have gone so deep in some states including West Virginia, that judges who hear workers’ comp cases, top defense attorneys for companies and even the father of the modern workers’ comp system say they are inhumane.

Senator Bob Casey, from Pennsylvania, one of the leading worker advocates in Congress, said “the changes undermine the basic protections for workers.”

In California, West Virginia, North Dakota and Oklahoma, lawmakers have placed time limits on wages for temporarily disabled workers. Benefits in West Virginia are limited for two years, even for those who can’t go back to work or need more medical care.

Few of the cuts were driven by concerns about fraud. And studies show most of the money lost to fraud results not from workers making false claims but from employers misclassifying workers and underreporting payroll to get cheaper insurance rates.

The system “isn’t only designed for the short-term easily diagnosed diseases and injuries; it’s supposed to be for all of them,” said Emily Spieler, a Northeastern University law professor and former head of the West Virginia workers’ comp system.

Reviewers who work for workers’ comp and the employers routinely rule against injured workers’ doctors, denying treatment in 91 percent of disputes.

After contacting the employer, local officials, state legislators, and the governor of West Virginia asking for help or support to receive medical treatment, you are told there is nothing they can do to help you.

These are the very people you vote into to office when help is needed as a citizen. The Insurance Commission of West Virginia also provides you with no assistance in resolving medical treatment with workers’ comp.

The workers’ comp system for Ohio County Schools is not working and is leaving the teachers and service personnel in poverty and disabled. A previous article was entitled, “Privatize PEIA.” I implore the voters and state employees to not let this happen.

If the legislators and the employers decide to privatize PEIA, your medical care will be diminished and you may not be able to receive any medical care at all. The legislators do not have funds for teacher and service personnel pay raise. The legislators have not come up with a solution to fix PEIA and now want to privatize the PEIA. The workers’ comp is privatized and completely broken. Do not let this happen to PEIA.

Chrystal Myers RN, BSN