Where are the problems with Pa.'s worker's compensation system?

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Mar 17, 2015 1:35 PM

(Hershey) -- A recent series from NPR and ProPublica exposed a haphazard worker's compensation system in the U.S., and though Pennsylvania came out looking relatively good, some see a few problems with the state's system too.

It sets some of the highest limits in the nation for lost arms and legs, benefitting those who are hurt on the job.

But other pieces of the complex system need work, says one worker's compensation attorney in Hershey.

Ron Tomasko says state law doesn't allow for cost of living adjustments, so those who were seriously injured decades ago may not be getting enough money now...

"That $150 a week might have meant something in 1977, but it doesn't mean diddly squat in 2015," says Tomasko.

A 1993 law restricts payouts to the lower of two numbers - either a percentage of an employee's average weekly wage at the time of injury, or half of the current statewide average weekly wage.

Tomasko also says rules that require injured employees to see physicians chosen by their employer for the first 90 days can worsen the injury.

"And a lot of times, when you have to wait that 90 days until you can see a physician of your own choosing, by then, sometimes the damage is already done," he adds.

He says those physicians may favor lower cost treatments, such as prescribing pain pills instead of immediately recommending back surgery.

The NPR investigation also found the average worker's compensation insurance rate for Pennsylvania employers has fallen nearly 50 percent in the past 25 years.

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