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Does the Workers’ Compensation System Need a Prescription Change?

Posted by attorney Jon Gelman

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Now that Barack Obama is a going to be at the helm of the US, greater attention is being focused on the need for a national health care system incorporating workers’ compensation medical coverage. With private insurance companies failing, unemployment increasing, the cost of medical care soaring, more attention has now been placed on the elimination of medical care as a workers’ compensation benefit paid by Industry.

It is not all surprising that Dr. Peter Barth reported to the WCRI Conference in Boston, that workers’ compensation programs may be swept up into a national health care system. He reminds us that this was attempted in the Clinton proposal. The enactment of such a proposal looks even more urgent now.

The medical system overall is now being stressed by: an aging workforce; medical conditions manifested by stress and aging; consumerism in health care; the attempt to shift costs from major medical plans and CMS to workers’ compensation; new and expensive treatment modalities, procedures and pharmaceutical products,and the expansion of palliative and “end of life care.” It is anticipated that the average cost may amount to $500.000 per claim.

The workers’ compensation system just can’t deliver medical treatment quickly and cheaply enough. The systems are frough with administrative costs delay. It is adversarial requiring legal timetables of investigation, litigation, adjudication and appeals. The progress of disease is not subject to court rules or judicial administration. Immediate and emergent medical treatment protocols follow a biological timetable not a legal one.
National health reform that embodies workers’ compensation as an element is a long awaiting solution to coordinate and advance the delivery of health care to all Americans. Old, inefficient and archaic systems need to be abandoned if progress is to advance. Moving forward to the inclusion of workers' compensation into a universal and nationalized program for health care is an important and innovative change. The change is critical necessary to advance with science, the economy and the social structure of America.

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