A coalition of several business-oriented organization has been formed to oppose HB9, a measure to provide rehabilitation to injured workers.
Larry Bunkall, president of the Utah Manufacturer's Association, and coalition representative, believes HB9 is unnecessary because there are organizations like the Worker's Compensation Fund of Utah, an insurance carrier that writes the majority of workers' compensation insurance in Utah, that are committed to rehabilitation.He called HB9 a "comprehensive social welfare bill" sponsored by the Injured Worker's Association of Utah and the Utah AFL-CIO.
The bill being considered by the Legislature shouldn't be construed as providing mandatory rehabilitation for injured workers, said Virginius Dabney, an attorney representing clients in workers' compensation cases before the State Industrial Commission.
Dabney said HB9, sponsored by Rep. Janet Rose, D-Salt Lake, would affect between 300 and 500 people defined as disabled "who fall through the cracks of the bureaucratic process" and don't have access to a rehabilitation program.
His remarks came during a debate before the Human Resources Subcommittee of the Women's Legislative Council in the State Office Building auditorium.
Dabney said there is a problem in getting some people rehabilitated because some people are fired after they are hurt on the job and the employer refuses to pay them any benefits or provide some rehabilitation. Dabney said it is ridiculous to think that all of the 40,000 workers' compensation cases filed annually should be concerned about rehabilitation.
Saying that Utah spends more money to re-train felons than it does to re-train disabled workers, Dabney said officials in most states agree it's cost effective to spend money on rehabilitation that helps an injured worker get back to work quickly.
Gov. Norm Bangerter noted in his inauguration speech that everyone should have a chance for individual growth, and HB9 is a chance to make certain every Utahn has a chance to succeed after a work-related injury, Dabney said.
"Injured workers and the handicapped don't want a handout. They just want a job and a chance to be retrained, if necessary," he said.
Bunkall said the rehabilitation system in Utah is working and HB9 would only add cost to the insurance carriers and employers. He said the Division of Rehabilitation Services already uses taxpayer money on rehabilitation programs available to any injured worker or handicapped person.
He said Washington started a mandatory rehabilitation program in 1982 but rescinded the action in 1985 because it wasn't cost effective. "This is a classic example of organized labor wanting more without the justification that the present voluntary system isn't working," Bunkall said in the Thursday session.