Workers Comp Zone


I never actually thought I would be writing this column.

Pundits and pollsters minimized the chance of a Trump victory. Recently I attended an event at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. The speaker, Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe, somewhat smugly assured the crowd of what they wanted to hear, i.e. that there was a 100% certainty that Clinton would be elected.

In my personal social circles (mainly Bay Area professionals and Silicon Valley tech and investor types) anyone who would admit to being a Trump supporter would face a sharp reaction.

Still, a very small and unscientific sample of workers I spoke with indicated they were for Trump. They may have been part of the group that was under-sampled in polls.

The election is now done, and the transition is underway. As Trump announces his staff appointments and meets with House and Senate leaders we may get a better look at what measures he will prioritize in his first 100 days and how those line up with priorities of legislative leaders on Capitol Hill.

But what will a Trump presidency mean for workers’ comp?

Since workers’ comp laws are state programs, there will be little if any direct impact.

The most likely indirect impacts would appear to be in the following areas:

-How will Obamacare be amended or dismantled? Will there be insertion of language into the law that limits workers who settled their cases from using Obamacare coverage for those conditions? Will it become more difficult or impossible for those workers to get healthcare coverage? How might this affect future workers comp settlements?

-Will there be major increases in infrastructure spending and stimulus measures? How will Trump’s policies on trade issues affect economic growth? For example, if Trump successfully pushes construction via a stimulus package that may stimulate more workers’ comp premium.

-What sort of approach will Trump take on worker safety/OSHA issues?  What appointments will he make to agencies such as the EEOC? We may know a lot more about what is likely in this area once we see what appointments he makes at the U.S. Department of Labor.

What sort of appointments will Trump make to the NLRB? Will his administration weigh in on wage and hour regulations promulgated by the Obama administration?

-Will his administration do anything special for the many displaced and discouraged workers whose anger partially fueled his campaign? Some of those may be folks injured at work.

-Although undocumented workers can receive workers’ comp benefits in California, will changes in immigration law somehow affect the status of those workers? If an immigration compromise is reached (I suspect Trump will not get his way on a complete wall, mass deportations or some of his other promises, but I believe he will get an end to sanctuary cities and a strengthening of E-Verify or a similar program), might some undocumented workers finally get a path to citizenship?)

-If Trump can convince industries to bring back jobs that were exported overseas (a big if), how many of those jobs will be automated and done by robots and intelligent machines/AI and how many by workers subject to workers’ comp systems?

Exactly what sort of influence Vice-President Mike Pence may wield on policy isn’t clear. A quick search reveals that in 2014 as Indiana Governor Pence signed a bill restricting physician dispensing and in 2013 a bill creating a hospital fee schedule.

Stay tuned as we see how things develop over the coming months.

Julius Young