Opinion on I-1082: Privatizing Industrial Insurance

Initiative Measure No. 1082 concerns industrial insurance. The measure would authorize employers to purchase private industrial insurance beginning July 1, 2012; direct the legislature to enact conforming legislation by March 1, 2012; and eliminate the worker-paid share of medical-benefit premiums.

My opinion on this one won’t be as long as I-1053. I’m all for having private workman’s comp insurance options, but I don’t think this initiative is the way to do it. My concern is with who wrote this: the Building Industry Association of Washington. The No on I-1082 campaign has a detailed list of the problems they see in the fine print of the initiative. Their take is that the fine print will leave workers on the hook for job related health problems (injuries, occupational illnesses, etc.) for businesses that choose to go this route.

I’m not a lawyer. I can’t parse through all the fine print and compare it to existing law, regulations, and court cases to see where it falls down. I don’t exactly believe the F.U.D. pushed by the no campaign either. I have read the detailed text of the initiative though, and it’s certainly not a clean easy to understand bill. While those issues may not be nefarious, they could be, and I don’t have a good way to tell. If it were the product of negotiation in the legislature, I’d be in favor. But it’s not.

I-1082 is the product of a conservative business organization that’s known for looking out for it’s interests instead of the general public. If you look at the list of organizations endorsing the initiative on the Yes on I-1082 web site, every single one of them is a business interest. Their argument is that if they can get cheaper insurance, they’ll hire more people. I really don’t think that’s the case. They’ll take the difference and put it into their profits (or maybe lower prices if the particular industry is extra competitive). You don’t pay more for one ingredient because you pay less for another. They’ll increase wages only if the demand for labor increases relative to the supply, and this doesn’t change that ratio at all. I just don’t see this as a net win for workers.

So I’ll vote against I-1082. If called on to vote on a version created by the legislature, I’d vote for that.