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NECESSARY IMMEDIATE AMENDMENTS TO THE PRESENT
ACT. Admitting that the act as it now stands will cost more for the second year of its operation than the first, there are some additional charges which would add to the insurance companies' expenses, which in the opinion of the Board are possible with economical insurance administration under an average premium charge of approximately 1 per cent. of the pay that is, provided that the average charge is properly controlled, so that classes in which the hazard is large and the losses great shall not be made a burden on the classes of industry in which the hazard of industry is small and the losses corresponding.
Practically all the authorities who have made a study of workmen's compensation are agreed that 65 per cent. of the average weekly wage of injured employees is the least that should be paid in industry when the average weekly wage does not exceed $18. Fifty per cent. of the average weekly wage when under $18 is not sufficient compensation to keep out of want the family of the wage earner injured in his employment.
In Massachusetts the average wage in manufacturing is $10.56 a week, and one-half of this is $5.28. That this is barely sufficient to maintain a single man who is injured, without providing any hospital or medical bills after the first fourteen days, goes without saying; that it is insufficient properly to maintain a married man who has a family depending on him is equally obvious.
The Ohio compensation law gives 66per cent. of the wage basis, with a maximum of $12 and a minimum of $5, subject to certain limitations upon periods of payments, depending on the nature of the disability.
The Washington law pays a flat rate to a married man with a wife and two children, not to exceed $52.50 during the first six months of the injury in case the monthly payment does not exceed 60 per cent. of the monthly wage that the workman was receiving at the time of his injury. For a single man the rate is $30 a month for the first six months after the injury, which is reduced by 50 per cent. after the six months' period. If a married man has only a wife and no children his compensation is reduced according to a schedule written in the law.
California is on a 65 per cent. basis, with minimum and maximum limitations and for varying periods of time, depending upon the nature of the disability.
Oregon has a rate of $30 to $35 per month for employees in case of disablement, with a special schedule for specific injuries causing partial or permanent disability.
Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and other States are on a 50 per cent. basis, with much more liberal provisions for specific injuries than is contained in the Massachusetts act.
The Massachusetts act should be amended so as to provide for the payment of 65 per cent of the average weekly wages of an employee during his total incapacity for work and 65 per cent of the difference between the old rate and the new when the incapacity for work becomes partial. The maximum amount to be paid .employees should be increased to $4,000, and the number of weeks during which compensation should be paid on account of partial incapacity should be increased to 500. The sum payable to dependents should be increased to a maximum of $4,000, and the period during which the payments may be continued should be increased accordingly. The additional compensation provided for by section 11, Part II., should be paid at the rate of 65 per cent. of the average weekly wages, instead of 50 per cent., as that section now reads.
The act should be amended to provide for the payment of compensation to a widow living apart from her husband for justifiable cause at the time of the injury, such widow to be entitled to full compensation, and to be conclusively presumed to be wholly dependent.
In the case of the death of an employee who has remarried, having children of his own, the law should be amended to provide that such children shall share equally with the surviving parent and all children of both parents in the compensation due; the sum due the surviving parent and his or her own children to be paid directly to the parent for his or her own use and the benefit of his or her children, and the amount due the step-children to be paid to their guardian or legal representative for their benefit.
The provision as to additional compensation for specified injuries should be amended to provide for the payment of said additional compensation for the permanent incapacity of a phalange. The law should be changed so as to provide for the payment of additional compensation for specified injuries to each hand, taking each hand separately, and providing for the payment of compensation on that basis in each case.
The Board should have the power to require insurance companies to pay, in whole or in part, a lump sum in cases which are regarded as unusual, and where the payment is deemed to be in the interest of the employee or his dependents. The Board now has only the power to approve or disapprove the payment, and has no authority under the law to fix the amount due, the parties being required to come to an agreement in regard to the lump sum.
To correct an obvious injustice, provision should be made for the payment of a lump sum, in the discretion of the Board, to minors, receiving a small compensation, who sustain permanent disabling injuries, so that their future may be properly provided for.
For the purpose of further expediting the adjustment of disputed cases, and informing all the parties to the act of their rights thereunder, authority should be vested in the Board for the establishment of branch offices in various sections of the State.
The law should be amended so as to provide clearly that insurers shall furnish such information as the Board requires in connection with the administration of the act, including all statistical information desired and the expenses of administration.
The section with reference to medical and hospital services should be amended so as to reserve to the injured employee his right to engage his own physician if he desires.
In cases of deferred incapacity for work, provision should be made for the payment of the medical and hospital bills during the first two weeks after the employee is incapacitated
for work, compensation to begin on the fifteenth day after the employee is in fact incapacitated, and provision also should be made for the extension of medical and hospital attention in unusual cases, in the discretion of the Board.
The section with reference to the appointment of impartial physicians by the Board should be amended so as to provide that the fee shall be paid by the Board in the first instance, the Board to be later reimbursed by the insurer,
The act should be amended so as to make provision for the hearing of evidence in relation to disputed bills of physicians, hospitals and attorneys in the first instance before a committee of arbitration.
All expenses in connection with the appointment of legal representatives and their fees should be paid by the insurer, so that the compensation due shall be paid in its entirety to employees and their dependents.
Insurers should be required to pay interest on compensation due in all cases appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court when the decision rendered by that tribunal is in favor of the employee.
There should be an amendment to provide that where an agreement in regard to compensation is signed, and compensation paid in accordance therewith, a committee of arbitration not having passed upon the matter, and the parties then disagree as to the continuance of the weekly payments, the procedure then is to come directly before a committee of arbitration.
An amendment giving the statute express 'extra-territorial effect should be enacted.
Section 12, Part III., should be amended to provide that any weekly payment may be reviewed and the Board empowered to issue any order, in accordance with the evidence, that is deemed advisable, subject to the provisions of the act.
An addition should be made to the law in which " personal injury” as used in the act would be defined as any injury, or damage, or harm, or disease, which arises out of and in the course of the employment, which causes incapacity for work or takes from the employee his ability to earn wages.
EVENTUAL NECESSITY OF A UNIFORM ACT IN
MASSACHUSETTS. It has become evident that as a matter of justice and public welfare compensation acts should be uniform and compulsory, and apply to all employees and occupations alike. For about one-quarter of the employees and their families in Massachusetts to be left practically unprotected from the evils consequent upon occupational injuries is unsatisfactory as a permanent condition.
The reason for making such laws elective in form, as has been done in most of the States which have adopted them, is to avoid possible constitutional objections. The elective method makes a needlessly complicated and cumbersome legal and administrative enforcement of the act.
The State of New York by vote of its people has recently passed a constitutional amendment giving the Legislature all needed authority. It is possible, however, that a uniform and compulsory act may be constitutional even without such an amendment, and this question is now before the United States Supreme Court on appeal from the State of Washington. It may, therefore, be wise for this Commonwealth to await this decision before proceeding, either by way of a constitutional amendment or legislation, towards a uniform act.