The Washington state Senate approved a measure Saturday that would drastically change the state’s workers compensation system by establishing an option for lump sum settlements.
The 34-15 vote was a significant win for the business lobby, which has been trying to move the state away from prolonged payment benefits and pensions for injured workers.
Organized labor steadfastly opposed this measure and will take their fight to the House, where support for business may not be as robust as in the Senate. Labor argues that adding the option of a settlement moved the state closer to reducing a safety net for injured workers.
This year, though, workers compensation has taken a central role in the legislative session because the system is bleeding money.
Gov. Chris Gregoire, the head of the state Department of Labor and Industries and the state auditor have all said the system is heading toward bankruptcy. In a December report, the auditor’s office said the state’s fund for workers compensation has a 95 percent chance of becoming insolvent in the next five years.
The system had about $499 million in reserves as of Dec. 31. Read more: http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/west/2011/03/07/189112.htm