Although the San Bernardino tragedy is in the memory of most Americans, many live with the consequences of it every day. More than a year later, the victims of the San Bernardino terrorist attack are still being denied workers’ compensation claims or having to jump through major hurdles due to delays in the system.
It was over a year ago that the shootings in San Bernardino, California took the lives of fourteen people and left twenty-two others severely injured. Many are still working toward emotional and physical recovery, and are now in the fight of their lives to not find themselves bankrupt. Many are still in need of surgeries to repair their shattered bodies and therapy to mend their shattered lives, and are not getting the care they need.
Unable to have their workers’ compensation claims covered or paid out, many are living without necessary care. From cutbacks on therapy reimbursement to having antidepressant medication coverage denied, workers who were injured are finding that the terrorist attack was not the worst of it.
Since the attack took place at their workplace, their fight is not with their individual health insurance companies. As a work-related incident, it is left up to workers’ compensation coverage, which is refusing to pay for the care that they so desperately need.
Workers’ compensation in California restricts coverage more than almost any other state. With a state whose budget is nearly bankrupt, cuts have come in the form of “reform” that has stripped the workers’ compensation benefit packages to almost nothing. The workers’ compensation package covers less than any health insurance plan would.
Those who were injured at work have spent months on end, trying to get their medical bills paid. Fighting both private insurance companies and the county, their treatment has been put on hold because they are either being denied or delayed past the point where therapies could have been effective.
The discrepancy is between the victims and the county. The county, not believing themselves to be liable, is trying to limit what they have to legally cover, saying that the employees should be able to pay for their own medical care. The county insists that the employer has absolutely no role to play in making medical care decisions.
A county spokesman went on record admitting that the delay and approval time for medical care has been somewhat “balky,” but not intentionally so. With an influx of medical bills and costs, he insists that it is not their intention to deny coverage; it is just taking them, a while to get through all the paperwork. He maintained that they are in the process of trying to hire a liaison to go between the county and the workers to help expedite the process.
Both the county and the survivors insist that the real culprit is the state workers’ compensation guidelines and how they are applied. The guidelines were written for simple things like slip and fall accidents, not a war zone — which is what workers found themselves in the middle of, on December 2, 2015.
California has been slowly overhauling their workers’ compensation coverage over the past couple of years. In 2013, they changed the reimbursement by removing the option of anyone to appeal a denial of coverage to any administrative judge, on account of people not knowing how to handle your work injury claims. Done to expedite the system, a lot of denials are not being questioned or given the chance to be overturned.
Other terrorist attacks around the nation have had Americans rallying to donate money and to help out with medical bills. The biggest difference with the San Bernardino event is that unfortunately for those who were injured, they were on the job. Therefore, it is all left up to a state system that is already having trouble.
With a new administration taking the reigns in 2017, it will be interesting to see if anything will be done on a federal level to deal with the limitation of manystates’ workers’ compensation laws and the lack of funds available. There is no doubt that around the nation there are substantial problems with a failed system.
With dwindling state funding options, workers’ compensation coverage appears to be continually on the chopping block, leaving many who need the help without recourse or options. That is increasing the risk of poverty for millions of injured workers.