Continued Second Injury Fund Issues Affecting Missouri Workers' Benefits, Chamber of Commerce Argues
As Kansas City workers' compensation attorneys, we have previously reported on the Missouri Chamber of Commerce's efforts to encourage workers' compensation reform. As we draw near the end of 2011, that reform continues to be a top priority for the Chamber: they are currently preparing to lobby for a variety of workforce issues when the state legislature begins its 2012 session on January 4, and Missouri's failing Second Injury Fund is one of the first items on their agenda.
The Second Injury Fund was created to provide benefits to Missouri workers who are reinjured in the workplace. It offers supplemental insurance to Missouri businesses, giving them an incentive to employ workers with pre-existing injuries or disabilities. If such an employee is reinjured on the job, the supplemental insurance--in theory--covers the injury, and the business is not liable. The fund is also supposed to pay benefits to injured Missouri workers when their employers did not obtain workers' comp insurance.
Unfortunately, things haven't quite worked out that way. At present, the Second Injury Fund is all but bankrupt. In 2009, the Missouri Attorney General's office stopped settling all cases against the fund, leaving more than 30,000 cases pending. And the number of pending cases continues to grow: about 700 more are filed each month. Even excluding these claims, the fund currently owes an estimated $1 billion for claims that have already been awarded to Missouri workers by judges. Back in March, the Second Injury Fund stopped paying out benefits to reinjured workers who had been awarded permanent total disability benefits. Of late, it has also stopping paying claims to workers with uninsured employers.
According to Richard Moore, assistant general counsel and director of regulatory affairs for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, 170 people will not receive benefits owed to them by the Second Injury Fund by the end of 2011--and these benefits total about $13 million. What's more, the state of Missouri is required to pay an extra 9% interest on those late payments.