The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 20, 2013

Our View: Fixing failure

The Joplin Globe

— Some 1,200 injured workers will finally get the payments they are owed. In its final week in session, Missouri’s General Assembly, through bipartisan efforts, passed a solution to address the insolvency of the state’s Second Injury Fund.

It’s taken years to get to this place and it appears — almost miraculously — that everyone is applauding the work of the Legislature on this one.

The Second Injury Fund is a 70-year-old program that covers workers with pre-existing injuries, such as wounded veterans.

An audit in January showed that more than $28 million in awards was owed. That price tag is now at $32 million.

A cap imposed in 2005 on businesses’ annual payments into the fund has in part exacerbated the problem. The bill, now on it’s way to the governor’s office, increases business surcharges temporarily until the backlog of unpaid awards has been paid.

Part of the compromise involved shifting certain occupational diseases out of the Second Injury Fund and into the state’s regular workers compensation system.

The move will likely curb lawsuits, return the fund to solvency and, most importantly, provide protection for employees who are injured at work though no fault of their own.

The attorney general’s office will immediately begin assessing when back payments could be made to injured workers. The bill’s provisions won’t kick in until Jan. 1 2014, so it’s not a simple matter of mailing out the checks today.

But it’s a solution of sorts that’s been a long time — too long — coming. House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, called the bill’s passage “historic.”

Let’s take a lesson from history. Don’t let the Second Injury Fund get in this kind of a mess again.