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Nov
2011
28

THAT’S COLD, TURKEY: Michigan GOP Sneaks Anti-Workers’ Comp Hearing Into Thanksgiving Madness

 
Michigan’s HB 5002 is a bill that looks to reform how insurance companies deal with injured workers. In this instance, “reform” is used in the bastardized, Tea Party sense where the definition more closely resembles what most would label “destruction of.” 

A public hearing before the Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee was needed before introducing the controversial bill. This hearing was held two days before Thanksgiving when many politicians were away on vacation and few reporters were available to attend. According to the American Federation of Teachers, HB 5002 will have the following effects on Michigan workers:

Creates “Imaginary Wages” – Regardless of Available Work
The bill defines “wage earning capacity” as the wages the worker is capable of earning, whether or not actually earned. This sets up a precarious situation for the injured worker. If he or she is determined to have the capacity to earn, even though not employed, that dollar amount is deducted from the worker’s compensation formula.

Hurts Older Workers Too – with “Imaginary Pension”

Older workers are placed in a similar predicament. This bill says if you are “eligible” for a pension, regardless of your financial ability or desire to retire, the amount of “potential pension” would be deducted from your worker’s compensation formula.

Employer Controls What Doctor Treats You

Currently, after ten days from the inception of medical care, the worker can choose to treat with a physician of his or her choice by providing the employer with the name of the physician and the intent to seek care from that individual. This bill would increase that time period to 45 days, meaning that the employer chooses who provides medical care for the first 45 days.

The timing of the hearing seemed to work out well for Republicans hoping to keep the bill as secretive as possible. As Eclectablog notes, only Michigan Radio seemed to cover the event:

More than one hundred workers, union representatives and business lobbyists showed up at the state Capitol today to testify on proposed changes to Michigan’s workers compensation law.

The proposed changes before a state Senate panel would reduce an injured worker’s benefits based on the amount an insurance company believes the worker could be earning at another job.

Chris Luty, with the Michigan State Police Troopers Association, told lawmakers finding a job, especially while injured, is not as easy as some insurance companies would claim.

“What’s available out there – what’s really available out there – and what’s theoretically available out there are often two very different things,” said Luty.

Luty told lawmakers about a state trooper named Drew Spencer, who was hit by a car while on the job. Spencer’s injuries were severe and left him dependent on workers compensation benefits.

“Drew Spencer, like most people within the Department of State Police, has a lot of experience before he came in. He has an education. And when you apply the virtual wage language as I understand it, Drew Spencer would get nothing under this bill, as I understand it,” said Luty.

The proposed changes also includes extending the length of time an injured worker must see a doctor assigned to them by insurance companies rather than their own doctor.

Michigan’s HB 5002 is the exact type of radical bill that will spark fierce opposition from unions and pro-labor progressive organizations who view HB 5002 as having many of the qualities of Ohio’s now-repealed, anti-union SB5. Frighteningly, as Eclectablog has chronicled, Michigan’s Democratic leadership has been unable (some say unwilling) to stand up for the working class to the degree that legislative and progressive groups in Ohio and Wisconsin have. Without concerted counter-action, Michigan has suffered more than other battleground states and will continue down its dark, red path.

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One Comment on “THAT’S COLD, TURKEY: Michigan GOP Sneaks Anti-Workers’ Comp Hearing Into Thanksgiving Madness”

  1. That’s how we got our esteemed Supreme Court Chief Justice, you know, the one so qualified that he can’t remember the words to the Presidential Oath of Office.
    Teabaggers have been taught how to do things under cover of night, that’s how they work. They find the shortest,least watched news cycle when they get up and Pledge of Allegiance to FAUX Spews

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