On January 1st, 2015, the workers’ compensation system in Kansas was changed when a new medical guide became the tool for evaluating workers’ compensation injuries. The 6th edition of the workers’ compensation medical guide has removed several injuries that previously qualified injured workers for compensation.
Effectively, the new guide makes it harder for workers in Kansas to retrieve suitable compensation for their injuries. By limiting workers’ provisions, they are endangering the safety and rights of workers throughout Kansas. Shortly after the new guide was released, the battle began for which guide to use. The fourth edition of the medical guide had been the system’s guiding light since 1993, and advocates for the new guide book cite the technological advances that have made a new edition necessary.
However, both legal experts and workers’ compensation lawyers have disagreed with this characterization of the argument. Their contention is who truly benefits from the medical guide. Insurance companies, whose medical experts wrote the updated material for the guidebook, may stand to gain the most from limiting which injuries receive benefits.
Some constitutional law experts believe that limiting workers’ compensation will give workers more reason to push their claims through the court system. Rather than pursuing litigation, many workers, many would prefer to simply receive the benefits they were promised by the state. Workers’ comp exists to give employers an easy, no-fault way to provide for their employee's needs—when the system becomes imbalanced, workers have the right to fight back.
Senate Fight to Restore Old Guide Has Stalled
The Kansas Senate introduced a bill last February titled SB 167 to revert the workers’ comp guidelines back to the 4th edition. In the 13 months since the bill’s introduction, it has stalled—progressing by about 25% according to LegiScan, a site dedicated to keeping voters abreast of legislative matters.
Two reports, unrelated to the bill, revealed truly troubling things about the workers’ compensation system in Kansas. It revealed that taxpayers pay for 80% of the financial cost of workplace injuries, while employers only pay the remaining 20%. That would only be good news if workers were receiving more benefits; however, these benefits do not come close to matching the loss of $31,000 in wages over time that workers face after an injury on average.
In the end, employers are paying less, workers are receiving less, and unless the bill passes, Kansas workers will continue to suffer under the burden of medical costs and lost wages.
What Can Injured Workers Do?
There are two things to do: one, contact local politicians. Their agendas will only change when they know that Kansas workers will not let their compensation rights be threatened. Enlist your friends and family to do the same, and make sure you call often and consistently. The more pressure our workers put on our representatives, the more change we will see.
If you’ve been injured on the job, the second thing to do is call our Kansas City workers’ compensation attorneys at Adler & Manson. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said it himself: when workers are not provided for under the compensation system, they have the right to pursue claims in court. With our help, you may be able to recover money for medical treatment, lost wages, lost earning potential, and more. Call (816) 399-2283 today for a free legal consultation.