The battle over workers' compensation

New Solut. 2000;10(3):217-36. doi: 10.2190/AT8B-MKRX-DYXC-NQK2.

Abstract

Faced with lower profits and rapidly increasing premium costs in the 1980s, insurers and employer organizations cleverly parlayed the public perception of worker fraud and abuse in the workers' compensation system (that they helped to create) into massive legislative changes. Over the last decade, state legislators and governors, Republican and Democrat alike, have jumped on this bandwagon, one that workers and their allies have dubbed the workers' compensation "deform" movement. Alleging a "game plan" and a calculated campaign on the part of insurers and employers, the author looks at the major components of changes that were made, examines the elements of workers' compensation over which employers and insurers have gained control, and discusses Newt Gingrich's efforts to capitalize on employer and insurer fervor over the system. This campaign whistled through the country until it goaded the labor movement, injured workers, the trial bar, and others in Ohio in 1997 to organize themselves to stand up to employers by defeating the deform law through a ballot initiative. The article details that battle and suggests that similar voices can be achieved through a return to grassroots organizing and mobilization.