Lean government can be good government too
Ann S. Jacobs, President
Wisconsin Association for Justice
Wisconsin history is on our side with this one.
In 1911, our legislators passed the nation’s first Worker’s Compensation program. It was pretty heady stuff back then. For the first time, workers who were injured or got sick on the job had insurance coverage which could bridge the gap until they went back to work.
104 years later, Wisconsin’s program is still considered a role model for the rest of the nation. There is virtually no cost to taxpayers because it is funded by insurance carriers. Wisconsin gets workers back on the job faster and cheaper than most other states. And it’s bureaucratically efficient. The Worker’s Compensation program is good government in action.
We should not mess with success.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s lawmakers are considering legislation to dismantle the current law. Instead of a joint council of labor and management working together to resolve issues, the proposed legislation turns Worker’s Compensation a political hot potato. Instead of one agency fairly, consistently and efficiently handling the program, it would be split between two. The economic stability of the program – which keeps costs down for everyone – would be put at risk. Worse yet, without the economic protections currently in place, taxpayers could pick up the bill for any additional work-related injuries or illnesses.
Here’s the irony. The program works so well that it’s unlikely the changes will save any money, and in all candor, it will probably cost more. The Worker’s Compensation program is the rare example of government working so well it pays for itself.
Consider that some 80% of the workers who end up in the Wisconsin system successfully navigate the program without a hearing or a lawyer. Compare that to Illinois where claimants use their formal litigation process in nearly two-of-three cases. By splitting a well-functioning program across two agencies the likely result is less consistent rulings which means workers are more likely to need a lawyer to help with an appeal.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson said the proposed change was about streamlining the program to bring it into line with other states like Florida and Texas. But, as the story pointed out, Florida’s worker’s comp law was recently declared unconstitutional and the Texas law lets employers opt out which can force workers into the civil justice system and more litigation.
Don’t tear down the gold standard of good government just for the sake of moving a few deck chairs around. Republicans and Democrats have worked together on our Wisconsin program for more than a century. Labor and management work out their differences across the table just like the old days. Taxpayers save money and the system works, largely, without lawyers. You want lean government? This is lean government.
The Governor wants to create what he calls the Office of Lean Government. I can’t imagine a better example to start with than maintaining our Worker’s Compensation program – a national model of fairness, cost effectiveness, and political bi-partisanship.
The Power Of Justice
CNN's Michael Smerconish recently aired a compelling commentary on the civil justice system.
Using the GM case as a springboard, Smerconish showed how the Melton family - who lost their daughter in a crash - turned to the courts to find justice both for their family and their daughter.
Smerconish referred to the civil justice system as a check on free enterprise especially when profits take a back seat to safety.
As he so aptly put it...it's all about accountability.
Take Justice Back
Curious about the civil justice system and why it should matter to you? The American Association for Justice has a new website which will show you why the system is important and how all of us are losing rights to corporate attacks every day.
Check the following features:
Understanding Auto Insurance - Ask the Right Questions Before You Buy
Understanding Auto Insurance is a handy guide to help Wisconsin drivers protect themselves with the right insurance coverage.
The brochure will help you understand the coverage you are required to carry in Wisconsin as well as evaluating the benefits of optional coverage. It also has consumer tips on the best questions to ask your insurance agent whether you are renewing coverage or shopping for a new policy.
Be sure to read the section on, "phantom motor vehicles," which are drivers who report fake accidents with insured drivers as part of a scam to commit insurance fraud.
If you prefer, you can also check out Understanding Auto Insurance online by clicking here.
Wisconsin Association for Justice is a Proud Supporter of the Public News Service
Since 2005, the Wisconsin Association for Justice, through the Wisconsin Civil Justice Education Foundation, has been a proud sponsor of the Wisconsin Public News Service (PNS).
Unlike most news outlets, PNS covers stories that are truly in the public interest. Recent stories include reports on the often unknown dangers of generic drugs, and how trial lawyers found the evidence that led to a massive recalls of GM automobiles.
Each story has a link to its specific podcast which makes for easy forwarding to friends and colleagues. Check back often to hear the latest podcasts from the Wisconsin Public News Service and the Wisconsin Association for Justice. Click here to use this free service.