May 2, 2015
Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid on Opt-Out
A workers' comp case in Oklahoma demonstrates the true intent of at least ONE opt-out participant: to stick it to the worker.
Former President George W. Bush infamously said in 2005, “See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”
Opt-out supporters and proponents repeat over and over again that opt-out is better for employees.
They forgot to tell that to Rachel Jenkins.
Jenkins, a 32-year-old single mother of four, was injured while working a double shift at a disabled care center in northwest Oklahoma City owned by ResCare, the nation’s largest privately owned home healthcare agency. Jenkins was injured on March 31 attempting to break up an assault of her disabled client by another patient. The incident was witnessed by Jenkins’ supervisor.
After her shift, Jenkins went to the emergency room, where she was administered medication and sent home to rest. Her employer sent her to a company doctor the next day. He provided medication and ordered physical therapy.
But ResCare’s opt-out contract with its employees requires claimants to call a designated toll free number to report accidents within 24 hours, and Jenkins did not call until the 27th hour. Her claim was denied.
Three hours late on a phone call, and Jenkins is on her own.
Bob Burke, her attorney, just filed a case in the District Court of Southern Oklahoma seeking declaratory judgment, saying the state insurance commissioner has obviated his responsibilities by approving ResCare’s opt-out plan and others that don’t give workers at least a one-year statute of limitations to report their injury, as required by Oklahoma law.
“Every opt-out plan I have seen so far has a 24-hour requirement that bars benefits if notice is not given,” Burke wrote in an op-ed published Monday in the Journal-Record newspaper. “Even though state law requires opt-out plans to have the same one-year statute of limitations as regular workers’ comp, the insurance commissioner continues to approve the plans, and the legislature, in House Bill 2205, is trying to remove the plans from public inspection under the Open Records Act.”
This case demonstrates the true intent of at least THIS opt-out participant: to stick it to the worker.
The employer cannot claim lack of notice – the injury was witnessed by her supervisor, and Jenkins was sent by the company to its doctor!
Burke says the insurance commissioner approves the 24-hour limitation because it is a notice requirement only. Apparently that translation got lost in practice, because ResCare and its administrators clearly are using the provision as a statute of limitations.
I’m sure there’s another side to the story. Opt-out proponents will have to spin that other side to preserve credibility. In the meantime, the wheel in the opt-out PR repetition machine has a broken cog.
Opt-out had me semi-convinced that it was a valid alternative to traditional workers’ compensation with its promises of less bureaucracy, better injured worker care, greater efficiency, competition and improved outcomes.
Proponents kept repeating the benefits over and over and over again…
The propaganda almost got catapulted, and I nearly drank the Kool-Aid.
Not now. It smells poisoned.