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Campaign to cut workers' compensation benefits stalls

Everyone is aware of the raucous presidential campaign that consumes more and more of the media's time and energy. Another important campaign is underway, however, garnering much less attention.

It's the national campaign to revise state laws to enable businesses to opt out of workers' compensation insurance. The employers would then get to decide on their own workers' comp plans. The movement recently stalled when Oklahoma's Supreme Court ruled that that state's version is unconstitutional.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the nationwide campaign is being bankrolled by large retail chains (Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby and Lowe's, for instance), as well as trucking companies, the oil and gas industry and health care corporations. Also probably not surprising: an analysis of the proposals by ProPublica and NPR shows that the plans would reduce benefits and make it more difficult for injured workers to qualify for compensation.

But courts are putting the brakes on the campaign. In addition to Oklahoma's top court's rejection of the proposal, the Florida Supreme Court struck down laws that limited temporary disability pay to two years and also reduced attorneys' fees.

Similar caps were made law in West Virginia, California, North Dakota and Texas.

The Oklahoma ruling means Texas is now the sole state allowing employers to get out of workers' comp. The court held that the opt-out clause created an uneven playing field with groups of workers receiving differing benefits, care and restrictions.

Right now, the campaign has suffered a setback, but supporters vow to continue their fight.

If you have suffered a workplace injury or work-related illness, a Newburgh workers' compensation attorney can help you appeal a denial of deserved benefits.

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