# Worker's Compensation



Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I've posted links to Bleeding Heartland's coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor's race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland's coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama's administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn't have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can't say I wasn't warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year's political events are welcome in this thread.

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Iowa is top-ranked state on workers' comp

I saw on the Iowa House Democrats’ blog that the Work Loss Data Institute recently released “2009 State Report Cards for Workers’ Comp, using the most current data available at this time.” Excerpt from the summary:

Similar to past releases of this report, the 2009 State Report Cards also provide five different outcome measures compared among the states for each year: (1) Incidence Rates, (2) Cases Missing Work, (3) Median Disability Durations, (4) Delayed Recovery Rate; and (5) Key Conditions: Low Back Strain. An essential requirement for production of this report was the proprietary crosswalk program that has been developed by Work Loss Data Institute, which converts OSHA-reported data into an ICD9 code format.  More details on the methodology used are located at http://www.odg-disability.com/…  

Iowa performed the best of all the states for 2006 and Minnesota came in a close second. Both states received a grade of “A+” based on an average of their 2006 scores in the five categories above. Illinois came in last, with Wyoming, Rhode Island and New York very close to the bottom. In total, nine of the 43 states received a grade of “F” in 2006. A summary of each grade for all states is shown on a U.S. Map Showing Grades by State, located at http://www.odg-disability.com/…

In terms of the tier ranking system, the Tier I states are Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Utah and Virginia. Tier I means that the state had an average grade of “B+” or better, and a trend going up or level. Those five states were doing great and continuing to improve.

Look for Iowa Republicans to keep claiming that this is a terrible place to do business despite the conclusions of independent analysts such as the California-based Work Loss Data Institute.

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Choice of doctor debate reveals Republican hypocrisy

Iowa Republicans are mobilizing against House File 530, which would allow employees to select their own doctor in case of a workplace injury. The workers’ compensation reform has already cleared a subcommittee (over the objections of its Republican member) and will be discussed at a public hearing tonight at 7 pm at the capitol. Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn held a press conference on the issue yesterday in Davenport, and most statehouse Republicans agree with the business interests working hard to defeat the bill.

Opponents claim the bill would let injured workers go “doctor-shopping,” even though the text states clearly that workers would have to designate a personal physician before any injury occurs. The Des Moines Register explains,

• If employees fail to select a doctor before an injury, the employer will select the doctor.

• If either the worker or employer is dissatisfied with the care chosen by the other party, the dissatisfied party may suggest alternative care. If the parties cannot agree, the dissatisfied party may appeal to the labor commissioner and a hearing may be set within 10 work days.

Seems reasonable to me. Shouldn’t every American be able to choose his or her own doctor?

We already knew Republicans don’t really care about the individual’s ability to choose a physician. If they did, they would support a “Medicare for All” approach to health care reform instead of the status quo in which private insurance companies routinely limit patients’ ability to go “out of network” for a doctor.

The controversy over Iowa House file 530 provides further evidence that Republicans don’t respect your right to choose your own doctor. If you’re an employee suffering from a workplace injury, Iowa Republicans think your rights are less important than the bottom line for businesses claiming this bill will cost them more.

Here’s hoping Iowa will join the 35 states that allow workers to choose their own doctors soon. It’s the least the Iowa legislature can do to advance workers’ interests after last month’s prevailing wage bill fiasco. The failure of Democratic leaders to find a 51st vote in favor of that bill provided a real shot in the arm for the Iowa GOP. Party chairman Strawn recently boasted to the Register about how he

sent e-mail alerts to county party leaders asking them to contact their local membership to flood undecided Democrats with phone calls. […]

“There was some very effective use of new technology that helped rally grass-roots Republicans around the state,” Strawn said. “Most all of that was done using these online tools. It wasn’t the old-school phone tree.”

Sounds like the Iowa Democratic Party and its labor union allies need to get those phones ringing down at the capitol.

I’ll have more to say on the doctors’ choice bill later in the week.

UPDATE: After the public hearing on March 10, the Iowa House Labor Committee approved this bill on a 10-6 vote. We’ll see whether leadership can come up with 51 votes to pass it.

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Arkansas hero's reward? $300,000 in medical bills

Daily Kos user JoesUnionReview brought Nigel Haskett’s story to my attention. Haskett was working at a McDonald’s in Arkansas and saw a woman being assaulted in the restaurant. He threw her attacker out and stood at the door to keep the man from coming back in. The assailant got a gun from his car and shot Haskett multiple times. Three abdominal surgeries later, Haskett has $300,000 in medical bills, but “the insurance agency representing McDonald’s says he doesn’t qualify for Worker’s Compensation in this incident.”

JoesUnionReview goes over the legal issues surrounding the worker’s compensation claim and why McDonald’s should be liable.

To me, this is even more unfair than Pizza Hut firing the Des Moines delivery driver who shot a would-be armed robber. That case prompted some people to boycott Pizza Hut. Will anyone boycott McDonald’s for its treatment of Haskett? I would, but I don’t think McDonald’s would notice, since I haven’t eaten there for years.

By the way, if we had universal health care in this country, someone who got shot while doing a minimum-wage job with no benefits would not get stuck with a $300,000 bill.  

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