Kitzhaber convenes meeting on Injured-worker insurance system

Author Subject: Kitzhaber convenes meeting on Injured-worker insurance system
Webmaster Posted At 14:55:49 01/03/2000
Salem, Ore (AP) 01/02/2000

Amid tales of people being excluded from the injured-worker insurance system
Governor Kitzhaber will bring labor and management under one roof.

His goal is to assure that workers injured on the job aren't having benefits
"unfairly denied".

We certainly don't want to go back to where we were before, Kitzhaber said.
but we also want to make sure that the system is working. I just want to make sure
that it doesn't end up in a range war, that we can actually work out issues together.

At Kitzhabers invitation, three labor and three management leaders will begin informal talks tuesday.
He hopes they"ll come up with a compromise that could be passed by lawmakers
in 2001, and head off looming threats to the system. The Smothers case.

Any compromise won't be easy, however, on the issue Kitzhaber calls the
"Bosnia of Oregon Politics.

In 1990, Gov Neil Goldschmidt holed up warring parties in the governors Mahonia Hall manson until they crafted a landmark
reform of Oregon sputtering injured-workers insurance system.

That reform sahved $3.8 billion from employers workmans compensation insurance premiums.
It also cut injuries and raised benefits for "QUALIFYING CLAIMS"

But the savings came partly by screening out an increasing number of worker injury claims.
Injured workers are fighting back on "Two Fronts".

That could up-end the entire system, which is based on a no-fault insurance
concept to "Prevent Lawsuits".

On another front, Injured worker and WI President Billy Washington is teaming
with the Oregon AFL-CIO on an initiative for the November 2000 ballot.

AFL-CIO President Tim Nesbitt said he'll enter this weeks talks arguing for
management concessions.

The 1990 reforms created a very, very high barrier for injured workers to recieve
benefits the system was designed to provide. "Nesbitt said.
Were not coming to the table with the sense that there are any reforms that make
sense to benefit employers.

Management delegates to the talks, including the Lobbyists for Associated
Oregon Industries, either didn't return calls or couldn't be reached, "I wonder why".

State workers comp regulators will stay on the sidelines for the talks
said Mike Greenfield director of the Department of Consumer and Business Servises.

Kitzhaber and Senate Majority Leader Gene Defler of Salem will address the group
and give them a pep talk. The initial session could wind-up setting
off a lengthy round of discussions, "or it could fizzle"

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