Many beleaguered entrepreneurs believe political action can help reform workers' compensation and decrease costs. "Workers' comp is killing me, so I've become a vocal thorn in [the government's] side," says Hamman. "I'm optimistic that this issue will create alliances of small businesses."
Entrepreneurs who have pushed for workers' comp reform have focused on a few key issues. Working with national trade organizations, or forming local small-business alliances, as Hauge has done by creating San Francisco Small Business Advocates, they have pushed for reform of workers' compensation litigation. One issue: In many states, workers' comp attorneys are paid by the hour, which encourages litigation over minor issues, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Entrepreneurs have advocated for states to restrict lawyers to a fixed rate for workers' comp litigation, set more objective means of assessing workplace injuries, and limit lawyers' ability to advertise so that more money is spent on injured parties.
What's more, entrepreneurs have pushed for reforms that introduce ways to control workers' comp medical costs, encourage competition in the insurance market and cut down on fraud. Some have suggested that states introduce caps on the number of visits workers' comp recipients can make to medical specialists, add co-pays and deductibles to workers' comp, let employers choose workers' comp physicians, and use other elements of managed care. Even in California, the situation has begun to improve. "California enacted workers' comp reform [in October 2003]," says Oxfeld. "It was the result of businesses in California uniting to pressure the legislature. Things can change. Legislators do listen."
|What Caused the Crisis?|
Joshua Kurlantzick is a writer in Washington, DC.