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Op-Ed: HB 296 Turns Back on Kentucky's Working Families

If you bring home a paycheck, you’re probably covered by our state’s worker’s compensation program. You may not think about it much; getting injured on the job is something many of us never worry about.

Police officers and first responders think about it a lot. We put ourselves in dangerous situations every time we go to work.  But our state’s worker’s compensation system protects all employees including you, and you should be worried.

Representative Adam Koenig’s legislation (House Bill 296) will gut our worker’s compensation program and leave all of us vulnerable to economic disaster if we get injured on the job.  

House Bill 296 cuts off medical benefits for partially disabled workers after 15 years even if you’re still suffering from an injury. It limits your right to compensation for injuries that occur over time (like back injuries, hearing loss, or respiratory issues). It limits your ability to receive benefits for an injury that recurs or gets worse. It also will affect existing claims.

Perhaps most alarming is that the bill calls for “treatment guidelines” as a part of the system. That may sound harmless, but it’s not.

These “treatment guidelines” allow political appointees to make decisions about your medical care. Rep. Koenig’s bill calls for “the commissioner of the Department of Workers' Claims to develop, adopt, and implement treatment guidelines.” The current commissioner is a lawyer not a doctor. He has no medical expertise at all.

Political appointees and government bureaucrats should never come between you and your doctor, or dictate what medical care you receive if you’re injured on the job.

According to a 2016 report on our worker’s compensation program, insurance company reserves have increased and claims were down by almost 50%. By all accounts, the state’s worker’s compensation system is working well.

So why make changes that could leave so many of us at risk?

Perhaps in Mr. Koenig’s line of work he doesn’t have to worry much about getting injured on the job. That’s not a good enough reason to turn his back on the hardworking families in his district that will be harmed by his legislation.

Rep. Koenig’s bill isn’t an attempt to fix a broken system; it’s just intended to put public and private employees at risk so he can claim to be a “business-friendly” politician.

It’s pathetic and shameful.

This legislation goes to committee on Monday (March 6, 2017) at 11:00 am and needs to be stopped.

Please contact your Senator at 1-800-372-7181 and let them know you are a hardworking Kentuckian and you oppose House Bill 296.

Scott Dames is Vice President of Fraternal of Police Covington Lodge #1.