February 11, 2012

Maine's workers' comp system one of US best

In its 2011 report to the Legislature, the Workers' Compensation Board called Maine's system "one of the more stable workers' compensation systems in the country."

The frequency of claims here is low, compensation rates have been reduced by 53 percent since 1993, the Maine Employers Mutual Insurance Co. recently paid a dividend to businesses and the assessment to employers has dropped by more than $3 million in the last two years.

To this rosy picture, the LePage administration wants to make changes.

First, the proposed amendments would limit the length of time a partially injured worker may receive benefits. Current law provides for a fairly complex method of determining the amount of time a worker will receive benefits, based on the percentage of disability suffered. The proposed amendment would shorten the benefits period.

I have seen no justification put forth for these changes, no allegation of waste or misuse. It seems to be based on an unproven-belief that the system is being abused.

The snarkiest proposed change, however, has to do with the makeup of the Workers' Compensation Board. Currently, the three representatives of management are appointed by the governor from a list provided by, for example, the Maine Chamber of Commerce, and the three labor representatives from a list provided by a labor union, such as the Maine AFL-CIO.

Under the proposed amendment, the appointment of management representatives would not change, but only one labor representative would be chosen from the union list, with the other two appointed at the governor's discretion.

Based on his past actions toward labor, such as removing the Labor Department mural, I, for one, do not want to rely on Gov. Paul LePage's discretion in making labor appointments to the board.

Let's leave well enough alone.

Jo Lynn Southard, Fairfield

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