The House today easily defeated HB 1955 to put insurance companies ahead of injured workers in payments for injuries involving third parties.

Rep. Mary Bentley depicted the bill as a way to hold down workers compensation insurance rates and even depicted as advantageous to injured workers. Several speakers begged eloquently to differ.

Rep. Doug House called the bill “immoral.” He explained that workers have redress for on-the-job injuries only through workers compensation. They may sue when a third party contributes to an injury and under existing law, any payments after payments to lawyers and court costs go to make the injured worker whole. For example, workers comp only provides two-thirds of pay. A settlement against a third party might provide enough to restore the lost pay.

The bill Bentley advocated would put workers comp insurance carriers ahead of the injured worker in getting repayment for money they paid out on the claim, even including a bereaved spouse’s funeral costs, Rep. Michelle Gray noted.

Reps. John Walker and Jimmy Gazaway also decried the bill.

It’s about justice, Walker said, and serving regular people. “We do not act in their best interest when we continually say their needs are subordinate to those who are powerful and have disproportionate resources..”

Said Gazaway: “This is a great bill if you’re an insurance company. It’s a terrible bill if you are an injured worker.”

Gazaway said insurance companies want to have their cake (premiums that cover the cost of workers comp claims) and eat it too by capturing third-party payments. “That ought to be offensive to us,” he said.

It was, drawing opposition from more than half the House. The bill was defeated twice in committee then barely got out after a new, virtually identical bill was filed. Gray was among those who’d voted the bill out. She said she regretted it after having learned more about it and voted against it today.