Workers’ compensation insurance coverage is one of the few assumed benefits that nearly every regular employee is entitled to when they are employed in a full-time, part-time, or seasonal capacity in South Carolina. Soon, however, this right could become a perk that is left up to your company’s discretion, but the news may not be all bad.
What Does the New Workers’ Compensation Bill Mean for South Carolina Employees?
South Carolina lawmakers have just introduced a bill that proposes allowing employers to use alternate coverage and benefits for injured workers, eschewing the current mandatory workers’ compensation insurance coverage. The bill, known as the South Carolina Injury Benefit Plan, could put South Carolina in a very small opt-out group, comprised of Texas and Oklahoma (Tennessee is also on the threshold of passing such a bill).
While this sounds like it could only end terribly, the bill does include language that would require employers to offer benefits to injured workers that are comparable or better than the current state coverage laws. Lawmakers feel as though this could create more competition among providers, and ultimately offer workers better coverage at a lower price.
It’s not all rosy, however. Critics say that this opens the door for employers to place greater restrictions on benefits to injured workers, and places a high priority on cost over coverage or prevention. Many are concerned that an opt-out could push workplace injury costs onto public programs like Social Security Disability, an already strained system.
Lobbyists from the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation (ARAWC) have already gone to work in the Carolinas, Georgia, and other southeastern states. This group, financed by large companies like Wal-Mart, has already been involved in Oklahoma’s successful push, and have the pull to influence our own situation.
If You Are Concerned, Act!
While an opt-out is not a guaranteed negative move, it could prove concerning for employees of companies that hold their bottom line above all. If you are concerned with this bill, contact your local and state representatives throughout South Carolina and Georgia and let them know how important your workers’ compensation coverage is to you and your family. You worked hard to be protected on the job—speak up today!