The state of North Carolina requires that businesses with three or more employees be insured for workplace injuries. When the businesses don’t possess the required workers’ compensation coverage, workers are left with mounting medical bills and often end up relying on government support. This requirement was put in place to protect all North Carolina workers. However, a recent change in the law has made it impossible for diligent employees to find data on an employer’s coverage.
The North Carolina Industrial Commission has been relying on North Carolina’s Rate Bureau to provide information about employers’ insurance coverage, which the Rate Bureau collects from private carriers. The commission then used the information when investigating claims, but it also provided a public database on its website. Recently, the Rate Bureau took issue with the way the Industrial Commission shared the data it provided. It found that private firms would request the database of employers and their insurance from the commission and then try to sell the list to insurance companies looking for new clients. That is why this summer, the General Assembly agreed to make information from insurers about employers’ coverage confidential.
This decision comes on the heels of a report by the News and Observer in April that found that as many as 35,000 North Carolina employers required to carry workers’ compensation insurance did not. The article also revealed that some businesses broke the law by treating employees as subcontractors and by cutting corners on taxes and insurance. The data used to help make these calculations was obtained primarily from the now private Rate Bureau report.
With persisting problems of fraud and businesses not providing workers’ compensation coverage, restricting employees’ access to useful information about whether or not their employer has the required coverage seems ill-timed. State officials met on Monday to discuss how to crack down on cheating businesses and access to insurance information should have been one of the problems they addressed.