On The Lege

Workers' Comp on hot seat

It could be curtains next year for the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission if lawmakers agree to a proposal that would fold the agency and create a new division under the Texas Department of Insurance.

The Sunset Advisory Commission is framing the plan as a reform measure that the corporate sector applauds, while labor leaders express cautious optimism over the opportunity to fix a system that frustrates companies, workers, and doctors alike. The Texas AFL-CIO last week issued a wish list for a new workers' compensation system that would allow workers a broader choice of doctors and a means of holding insurance companies accountable if they wrongfully deny treatment.

Labor representatives believe workers were shortchanged the last time the system was overhauled, more than 10 years ago, and they want to make sure that doesn't happen again. The Texas group would like to see workers get enhanced benefits, effective representation, a more effective return-to-work policy, and an end to incentives for employers to opt out of workers' comp. "We believe these ingredients can be negotiated in good faith with other stakeholders in the workers' comp system," Texas AFL-CIO President Emmett Sheppard said in a statement. "We must fix a law that takes away more worker options than it provides and ... simply fails to compensate workers."

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Texas AFL-CIO, Texas Workers Compensation Commission, Texas Department of Insurance, Sunset Advisory Commission

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