Letter from Indiana State AFL-CIO president Nancy Guyott (July 22, 2013):
Brothers and Sisters,
As I have traveled around the state during the past few years, probably the most frequent complaint brought to me by local union leaders and members alike is frustration with Indiana’s worker’s compensation system and the low level of benefits it provides to Hoosiers injured on the job. Despite the odds we faced in the General Assembly this year, the Indiana State AFL-CIO was successful in bringing these concerns to the attention of legislators and winning dramatic increases in benefit levels. I know it’s likely that your local news media didn’t report this achievement for workers, but I wanted to ensure that you know about these much-needed improvements to Indiana’s worker’s compensation system.
The important changes this year include:
1) Increased Wage Replacement Benefits
Under current state law injured workers receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage (calculated for 52 weeks prior to the injury) so long as their average weekly wage is below the state cap of $975. With the passage of this bill, starting in July of 2014 that cap will be increased by 20% over three years to $1,040 in 2014, $1,105 in 2015 and $1,170 in 2016. This change means more injured workers (those making $60,840 per year or less) will receive the full two-thirds of their weekly wage, reducing the financial hardship and stress that begins the moment a worker cannot earn his or her paycheck.
2) Increased Compensation for Permanent Loss of Body Function
Under the worker’s compensation system, Hoosiers who are permanently impaired as a result of a work-related injury or illness receive Permanent Partial Impairment Payments to compensate for their injury. The amount is determined by a complex formula that takes into account the severity of the injury as determined by doctors and state law that categorizes different degrees of impairment. Starting July 2014, compensation for these injuries will increase 18-25% over the three years (depending on the severity of the impairment).
3) Fixing Maximum Rate for Hospital Reimbursement
With the passage of House Bill 1320, several cost savings measures have been put in place to control the cost of hospital care and certain drugs that can be charged to employers or their insurance providers. The injured worker cannot be charged for medical services and this bill does not change that.
You can go here to download an information sheet detailing the changes.
Let’s be clear: it’s never ok when your job hurts. And we have a long way to go to make our worker’s compensation system what it should be for workers and their families when an injury does happen. However, these increases are the largest increases workers have won in decades and they begin to move us in the right direction.
If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact the Indiana AFL-CIO by email here.
Nancy J. Guyott
President, Indiana State AFL-CIO