Roundtable: What Would Consensus Be On National Standards for Workers' Compensation In the 21st Century?

Friday, November 9, 2012: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Washington (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizers:  Ishita Sengupta, National Academy of Social Insurance
Speakers:  John F. Burton, Jr., Professor Emeritus, Rutgers and Cornell University, John W. Ruser, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Frank Neuhauser, University of California, Berkeley
Moderators:  Ishita Sengupta, National Academy of Social Insurance

On the eve of the 40th Anniversary of the report to the National Commission on State Workmen’s Compensation Laws (NCSWCL), this roundtable discusses the first steps in reconvening a new national commission. What kind of consensus there might be on best practice in constructing a workers' compensation system? What are the important issues now, which were not of importance 40 years ago? What are the issues in occupational injuries which are relevant in today’s world which needs to be addressed in the new commission? The roundtable would also focus discussion on how the issues of permanent and temporary disability benefits have evolved since 1972, and how compensability has changed? The Chairman of the Commission on NCSWCL, John Burton would be leading the discussion on successes and the failures of the report. Frank Neuhauser and John Ruser would be leading the discussion on what the new commission should be involved in. Ishita Sengupta would be moderating the session. The National Commission on State Workmen’s Compensation Laws (Commission) submitted its Report to the President and Congress in 1972. A year of hearings and meetings resulted in surprises. The Commission concluded that state workers’ compensation programs were “in general, inadequate and inequitable.” The Commission unanimously endorsed Federal standards if the states did not comply with the essential recommendations. The threat of Federal standards induced many states to significantly improve their laws in the 1970s. However, with the election of President Regan in 1980, the threat of Federal intervention evaporated. States maintained their programs through the 1980s, but since 1990 workers’ compensation programs have regressed. Was the improvement of laws in the 1970s an aberration? Is the state-controlled workers’ compensation system now in a downward spiral that eventually will self-destruct? John Ruser will focus his discussion on the nature of work and the employment relationship between employers and workers has changed substantially since the National Commission on State Workmen’s Compensation issued its report 40 years ago. Workers are more likely to be self-employed, to be leased from one employer to another, to work in a more flexible work environment or otherwise to be less firmly attached to a fixed worksite. These changes in work relationship and injuries create challenges for workers’ compensation insurance that were not necessarily envisioned when the previous National Commission issued its report. Frank Neuhauser will be discussing on what would consensus be on national standards for workers' compensation in the 21st century? Since the last National Commission on Workers' Compensation, the landscape of occupational injuries and workers' compensation systems has changed dramatically. Non-occupational health insurance, only inconsistently available in the 1970s is slated to be near universal if ACA is upheld by the Supreme Court potentially eliminating medical treatment from workers' compensation insurance coverage. Temporary disability compensation has become much more uniform across states, but permanent disability compensation remains very dissimilar and needs to be addressed, something that is now possible given the numerous wage loss studies of the past decade. Ishita Sengupta will be moderating the session.

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