Sunday, January 9, 2011
AMA Against Injured Workers
"Workers' compensation is sometimes called "the Grand Bargain." Under workers' comp, employees give up their right to sue their bosses for workplace injuries and illnesses in exchange for compensation under a no-fault system. As Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) said at a Nov 17 subcommittee hearing of the House Education & Labor Committee, this grand bargain of the 20th Century doesn't seem so grand these days. Benefits for injured workers have declined significantly since the 1990s because of intensive state-level lobbying by insurers and self-insured employers. The latest guidelines for assessing workplace health issues may depress benefits even further."
"The primary focus of the hearing was the sixth and latest edition of the American Medical Association's Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, the bible for determining how a workplace health problem translates into on-the-job impairment. This may sound like an obscure issue, but the answers potentially affect millions of American workers. Many states require the use of the latest edition of the Guides, the 6th Edition, published in 2007, has proved so controversial that some states, including Iowa, Kentucky and Vermont, have chosen not to adopt it."
"Rep. Woolsey alleged in her opening statement that the latest edition of the guide has "dramatically reduced impairment ratings for many types of conditions, without apparent medical evidence, and transparency." Various witnesses echoed Woolsey's assessment that the 6th Edition is dramatically different from previous editions."
"It also appears that the 6th edition was developed in near secrecy, without the transparency and consensus which should necessarily accompany the development of standards that will have widespread use by state governments," she added."
"Godfrey testified that the AMA declined to disclose the names of the authors of chapters in the guide to an Iowa Workers Compensation task force in 2008. As of this week, neither the Iowa Division of Workers Compensation, nor the Workforce Protections Subcommittee had received a list of chapter authors.
The AMA was invited to send a representative to testify at the Nov 17 hearing, but the Association declined to do so and instead submitted written comments for the record."
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