8th Circuit

There's a specter haunting Missouri, the specter of workers' compensation. The government-run insurance program was originally intended to compensate employees who were injured in the course of their jobs. In recent years, however, the program has gone wildly out of control, according to many employers and the state's political leaders.

To hear Missouri State Senator John Loudon tell it, workers' compensation rulings in the state have become one horror story after another, with employees receiving benefits for injuries that have almost nothing to do with work. Benefits were awarded to "an overweight woman [with a bad knee], whose knee just happened to pop out at work; it could have happened anywhere," he says. Another woman got benefits when she fell and injured her ankle--outside the company's premises while on her lunch break.

So why do many businesses in Missouri say there's a problem? McConnell points to history: "From 1994 to 2001, the price of workers' compensation insurance declined 25 percent. Then medical inflation caught up and insurance rates rose 4.7 percent in 2001, 9.2 percent in 2002, 14.7 percent in 2003, and 2.1 percent in 2004.

"Employers see rate increases from the low in 2001, so they want to reduce eligibility for workers' compensation," McConnell says.

Loudon, however, remains unmoved. "The current workers' compensation situation has put employers' backs up against the wall," he says. "They would rather take their chances under a new system."


Steven Seidenberg

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