by Grand Forks Herald
February 27, 2012 at 4:00 pm in Grand Forks Herald
WSI employees must be told that integrity not money is the agency’s bottom line. Likewise, the workplace culture must consistently support and reinforce that goal. Continue Reading
Tags: Editorials, ND politics, Opinion, updates, workers compensation, workplace safety and insurance 5 Comments »
WSI is deeply corrupt, and this is not recent news. It goes back–way back–to a point where, under one former director, WSI couldn’t generate a long-distance phone call to an employee. (so the burden was on the employee to push his case along) The director had NO interest in justice, just reducing the case load by attrition.
WSI used to refer to employee “problems” as “Insurance fraud”; but when employers cooked the books or lied about circumstances, the term used was “misdeeds”. Not a very fair and balanced approach.
WSI has been warned by the ND Supreme Court that they were invalidating the promise made to ND workers that the state compensation system is based upon–the workers CANNOT sue the employers in return for fair and swift compensation for valid claims. The workers NEVER DID get the fair and swift compensation promised; and the Supreme Court acknowledged that the system had deep and on-going problems LONG AGO. Things have not gotten a lot better since then. As is, the WSI operating procedure is practically corporate welfare. Injured workers suffer, and the employer is shielded from court cases that have the potential to affect worker safety in a positive way.
WSI is a TOTAL MESS; and if I were emperor, things would be a lot different there.
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And yet, the Supreme Court invariably rules with the WSI on cases that come to it on appeal. Don’t kid yourself, if you are a worker in North Dakota seeking a claim, you will get no help at all from either the WSI, or a Supreme Court that cares not at all for the worker in the State.
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Mark, the ND Supreme is kind of handcuffed when ruling in WSI cases. Cases involving benefits by WSI are handled by administrative law judges. These are judges who are in the “executive” branch of government. If a worker gets an unfavorable decision by the administrative law judge (a frequent occurrence), they file a lawsuit in district court seeking to set aside the decision. Upon appeal, the ND Supreme Court can only reverse the decision of the administrative law judge in certain circumstances (e.g. the judge misapplied the law). I believe the admin law judges are now picked by WSI and the ones they do pick are most likely to favor WSI’s position. These judges tend to always side with the opinions of WSI’s doctors rather than the claimants doctors. For issues involving factual disputes such as whose doctor’s opinion is correct, the ND Supreme Court is generally prohibited by law from overturning the decision of the administrative law judge even if they disagree with that judge’s conclusion.
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WSI has been a DISASTER for the last ten years. It is important to note that people’s personal health insurance generally does not cover work related injuries. Thus, when they are hurt at work, their sole means of medical care is worker’s compensation. WSI too often rejects legitimate claims stating that they are for “preexisting injuries”, denies certain treatments claiming that they are unnecessary, or that the claim was fraudulent with little to no evidence. On top of all that, there has been a pattern of mismanagement and other issues at WSI.
The solution is clear. Stop all attempts at reform and adopt the approach of liberal Minnesota. Minnesota allows employers to obtain policies from PRIVATE insurers (who compete to provide the lowest premiums) rather than forcing them to go with a government agency.
But the private insurers are at least as motivated as the State to deny benefits; the role of “profit enhancement” is very clear.
Whether mis-managed State agency or profit-motivated private insurer, the injured employee is SCREWED. Maybe it’s time to eliminate the workplace injury insurance debacle, and simply allow injured employees to sue the employer for real and punitive damages.
I think a lot of injured employees would wind up owning the company; and that’s not all bad. It would provide a reason for employers to actually care about workplace safety.
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