No Need for Federal Workers’ Comp Commission

There is a general perception that Congress could always do more. But sometimes, it is actually a good idea for Congress to decide to do nothing.

Such is the case with workers’ compensation. In January of this year, Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) introduced H.R. 635, the “National Commission on State Workers’ Compensation Laws Act of 2009” [pdf here]. The bill would create a commission tasked with evaluating the state-based workers’ compensation insurance system and making recommendations for improvements to the system.

Sounds innocuous? Not really. The current state-based system of worker’s compensation is based on decades of reforms unique to each state. A national commission’s recommendations would drastically impact the current, fundamentally sound system. Any federal interference risks creating an imbalance in that system that could throw it off course.

States regularly review their workers’ compensation programs, based on the abundance of research readily available to them. Their reviews are specific to their state, based on their unique economic challenges, businesses, and history.  In addition, there is already a group addressing the various state programs from a national perspective. State insurance regulators through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) have a Workers’ Compensation Task Force studying the same issues that would be studied by the kind of commission proposed in H.R. 635.

When you consider that there is already a successfully functioning workers’ compensation system in place that is already subject to appropriate oversight and review, using federal tax dollars to fund a duplicative federal commission is a waste of resources. In our current economic fragility, we should be using our resources to build recovery, not to fix what’s not broken.

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