Letters to the Editor

Lots of Luck

Park and chide: Regarding Patricia Calhoun's "Attention, Cherry Creek Shoppers," in the October 23 issue:

While, in my opinion, parking in the Cherry Creek shopping district shouldn't cost a dime, there is a simple solution: Park in the free garage at the mall, and walk the measly 250 yards to the district. Are we Denverites so lazy that no one considers this an option?

David Willis

Pinning Pinnacol

They haven't a prayer: Regarding Stuart Steers's "Adding Insult to Injury," in the October 16 issue:

If you believe in prayer, please join me in praying that the Plagues of the Pharaohs are visited hard and fast on the lords of Pinnacol Assurance and their agents -- "nurses" and "doctors" -- who violate their oath to "do no harm." While we're at it, add in all those who make a living depriving others of their jobs, health and happiness -- not just those who make a killing "slashing jobs," but those who computerize others out of jobs, move jobs to slave labor in China, etc. And don't forget the legislators who make this all legal.

Please, if you're one of those who indiscriminately pray for the souls of those listed above, consider: They have none. You're confusing the prayer waves and diffusing planetary plagues from those who cause them.

Evan Ravitz

Making change: Just a note of thanks for "Adding Insult to Injury," an excellent article. One wonders how to make a difference and compel change. Journalists are in a position to do so as long as their writing seems fair and balanced while exposing things that need change. Stuart Steers accomplished that.

Martin Linnet
via the Internet

Labor daze: The Colorado workers' compensation system sometimes fails to provide the best outcomes for injured workers, but is it fair to lay all the blame on Pinnacol Assurance? Stuart Steers interviewed one member of the claimant's bar, who then referred him to some of his clients whose experiences with Pinnacol Assurance have not been good. Is this really supposed to be considered an investigative approach to the subject matter?

The workers' compensation system is a complex mix of legal and medical arenas that pits the interests of workers against employers. Do Colorado's political bodies favor the business community? Absolutely. The same bodies love to attack state government agencies. Pinnacol Assurance has to be both state agency and non-profit business to accomplish its mission, and, consequently, it is an easy target for all of the parties in the fray. Treasurer Mike Coffman can attack Pinnacol Assurance to get name recognition in his run for governor. State senator Ron Tupa can keep the donations coming from the claimant's bar by demanding reforms in the system to benefit workers.

Coffman and Tupa are not very objective sources of information about what is best for the Colorado workers' compensation system. A better-researched article would have provided more insight into a serious issue.

Name withheld on request

No-fault, no foul: I used to do some legal work for Pinnacol, and I now work for a private-sector competitor. I liked Stuart Steers's "Adding Insult to Injury," but felt it was skewed against the employer/carrier position. The brief history of how the SCIA morphed into Pinnacol and the parallel history of changes in the workers' comp system offer no support for Steers's conclusion that Pinnacol executives are overpaid. There is no correlation between the current rate of pay for Pinnacol executives and the changes in the Workers' Compensation Act.

The general theme of Steers's article was that, due to the power and influence of employers and carriers with the legislature, injured workers are being denied benefits that they are entitled to. The workers' compensation system is a very old no-fault system. Both before and after the changes in the 1990s, the system was/is full of latent fraud. Certainly there is some fraud with employers, but I believe that this latent fraud exists primarily with the claimants and the doctors, and most cases involve what would be relatively minor injuries outside of work that are being treated by doctors in the system. The employer may have incentive to deny that an injury happened at work since, if successful, that claim does not count on the employer's premium; after the claim is accepted, however, much of that incentive dissolves. I would like to know the employers' and Pinnacol's positions on the three claims referenced; I imagine that there is a separate side to these stories from these entities.

Please remember that the workers' compensation system was put into place as an alternative to allowing the employee to file suit against the employer for negligence. It was designed to give the injured worker some benefits while getting treatment for the injury without regard to fault for the injury. In a majority of the cases that I have seen, if fault were a factor, I believe that the injured worker's recovery from a jury would have been significantly reduced or eliminated. The changes in the law did not give the employers the upper hand; they leveled the playing field.

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