On Tuesday, the Worker’s Compensation Employers Coalition, which will advocate for meaningful reforms to Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation laws, was formally launched. The coalition’s forty-six employer associations range from manufacturers to municipalities and farmers to road builders to small business groups, including WIB.
Together, the coalition is calling on lawmakers to support the agreed-bill from the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC), which includes the creation of a medical fee schedule – like forty-four other states have done – to finally reduce Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation medical costs.
The WCAC, a ten-person Department of Workforce Development council that includes employer groups and labor unions, including both WMC and the AFL-CIO, unanimously approved the agreed-bill in August and is expected to send the finalized version to the Legislature soon. If enacted by lawmakers, the fee schedule included in the agreed-bill would bring medical costs down. This would give Wisconsin one more area where the state has a competitive edge.
According to the Worker’s Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), Wisconsin has some of the highest medical costs for worker’s compensation in the nation. In the most recent year they studied, WCRI found Wisconsin costs to be 47 percent higher than the national median. Looking only at serious injuries that required a week off of work, costs were 60 percent higher than the median.
Employers have tried to manage the high costs by investing in safety and reducing injuries. In fact, from 1994 to 2014, workplace injuries dropped a dramatic 58 percent in Wisconsin, falling from approximately 220,000 per year to under 95,000. Unfortunately no cost savings materialized because the medical cost per claim rose over 450 percent over the same time period.