The Government of Alberta is requesting submissions for a review of the Workers' Compensation Board.
We've made our submission with a focus on health care delivery and the WCB, with 7 recommendations below.
Read our submission online, and you can make your own to [email protected] but make it quick - the deadline is Friday, July 15.
WCB has also provided a Workbook if you're looking for further inspiration on areas of possible improvement in the system.
Our Recommendations to the WCB Review
Our following recommendations are informed by our experiences as health advocates and are in the aim of improving health outcomes on a system wide basis, with these underlying principles:
- The operation of the WCB must have the medical and financial rehabilitation of workers as its primary goal.
- With finite resources available, it is unacceptable to put those resources towards the profit margins of private health care providers when we have a public system. This is made an even larger problem without transparent data to analyse claims of improved outcomes through private delivery.
- Barriers to access are a means of shifting costs from employers to the workers and ultimately the provincial government who will end up paying for treatment instead.
End the segregation of medical services for WCB claimants
We do not have evidence that private for-profit providers are improving outcomes for WCB claimants, or that operating a parallel system produces faster or better recoveries than those of non-WCB claimants in the public system. Any medical service that is publicly delivered for non-WCB claimants should also remain in the public system for those on WCB. Where services are currently privately delivered, WCB should not have its own segregated provider.
Surplus fees should be invested in improvements to public health care and OH&S resources
Despite low Alberta premium fees for employers, WCB regularly distributes surpluses back to them. Over $1.3 billion has been refunded in the last 5 years. These funds should instead be reinvested based on need to reduce health care wait times, improve safety outcomes for workers, and expand public delivery of services with priority on those services common to WCB claimants.
Remove all incentives or bonuses for denying or closing claims, and any that prioritize the WCBs finances or employer surplus payments
Workers and the Alberta government ultimately pay the cost for decisions made based on finances rather than worker rehabilitation.
Provide an independent ombudsperson to help workers navigate the system and resolve disputes
This should aid in greater worker participation in the WCB program, to better reflect the true cost of workplace injuries and illnesses.
Physician fees for WCB paperwork should not be a worker’s responsibility
Paperwork fees to access the system should not be a burden to claimants. If fees are necessary to cover the burden on physicians, WCB should pay the cost.
Refine the composition of the WCB Board of Directors to improve representation
The worker representatives should include representatives for public sector workers, private sector workers, and migrant workers.
The employer representatives should include one public sector, one small business, and one corporate representative.
A fourth category, health care representatives should be included with one physician and one health care professional. They must be selected from those who are not providing service to WCB claimants, but desirably those whose services overlap with WCB needs.
Conduct a broader review in 5 years with a mandate to examine an expanded WCB
Looking at New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation and other jurisdictions where accident compensation has a broader mandate than WCB, a review should be undertaken to determine if Albertans would be better served with a broader WCB mandate. 100% worker coverage, automobile accident coverage, and even non-workplace accident coverage should be considered with the presumption that greater rehabilitation and recovery from all accidents is of benefit to workers and employers.