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April 16, 2008

Alberta WCB Downloading Costs Onto Taxpayers

"WCB is not only a Provincial disaster, it is a national disaster that must be addressed by the Ministers in charge of Provincial Health Care Services, Provincial Income Support Programs and the Provincial WCB systems to ensure that taxpayers are not paying for services that are the sole responsibility of WCB. . . . This is done all over Canada with Alberta no worse than any other Provincial WCB system. "

Perhaps this e-mail will rattle a few chains in Alberta as well as throughout Canada as the same things happen whether it is in Alberta or in the rest of Canada. In defense of Mr. Liepert, Mr. Goudreau and Ms. Jablonski, all of them have been recently appointed by Mr. Stelmach to administer their respective Ministries. Mr. Liepert is the Minister in charge of Health and Wellness, Mr. Goudreau is the Minister in charge of the Alberta WCB which also includes Employment and Immigration, and last but not least is Ms. Jablonski, Minister in charge of Seniors and Community Supports which involves such programs as Social Assistance which include AISH ( Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped) All these Ministries intertwine with Workers Compensation. I shall explain how and why.
First I will provide a well known fact that has been found by numerous studies. The more workers who are denied claims and benefits the higher the costs are for Social Services and medical costs and especially so in Canada where we have a publicly funded health care system. Every claim that is mistakenly or illegally denied by WCB places an extremely heavy burden on Social Services and the public health care system. That is a proven fact that cannot be disputed. Claimants who have had their claims or benefits illegally denied and cannot work need income support as well as medical care. In Alberta, disabled workers have only one alternative and that is to apply for AISH if they are severely disabled and their claim is illegally denied. The disabled worker whose claim is illegally denied thus becomes a charge on society which was the main crux of the historic agreement that was supposed to prevent this. Even when a claim is accepted by WCB, WCB will in most cases not pay for any earning losses or partial earning losses even when medical evidence supports the fact that they are unable to work. The disabled worker then has no choice but to apply for AISH. The disabled worker thus becomes a charge on society by being provided income support as well as medical care for a compensable work related disability. The medical profession do not ask nor do they care whether the AISH recipient's cost for medical care is based on a WCB claim or whether the medical care is being paid by Alberta Health Care. AISH recipient's health care premiums are paid to Alberta Health Care by AISH. The AISH recipient does not care who pays for his medical care in a publicly funded health care system as long as he/she does not have to pay for it. Alberta Health Care thus pays millions of dollars a year for medical services that should be paid for by WCB. If the AISH recipient requires surgery for a compensable medical condition that has been illegally denied or even if the claim has been accepted and WCB closes the claimants files because they have been refused wage loss benefits, Alberta Health Care pays the cost of the need for work related surgery. 
Most if not all claims involve numerous doctors, as many as 25-30 doctors all giving some opinions that are not consistent with the evidence or not consistent with the latest in medical studies or science. All these doctors get paid for their opinions with WCB paying for their own contract doctors and Alberta Health Care paying for the doctors who WCB refuse to pay. Mr. Liepert blames regional health care boards for excessive costs due to patient care and then fails to understand that millions of dollars are incurred by health boards due to WCB downloading claims. Surely Mr. Liepert knows that this is happening and has happened for decades. The two claims I have been involved with and now been requested to assist in another claim would easily run upwards to a half million dollars or more just for two claimants for medical costs which does not include the tens of thousands of dollars paid by taxpayers for AISH benefits to the one claimant who despite numerous doctors stating that the claimant is totally disabled, his claim for an earning loss was denied. Odd that this same claimant applied for CPP disability benefits as well as AISH benefits and both claims were accepted, yet WCB has refused to pay him even for a partial loss of earnings, let alone a total loss of earnings. I would suggest that the denial of claims and benefits that WCB has downloaded on Albertans has cost Alberta taxpayers tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars in Income Support Programs as well as medical costs due to the downloading of injured and disabled workers. Of course the Conservative Government has known this for decades but refuse to order a Judicial or Public Inquiry.
What is even more galling is the fact that numerous workers who suffer work related injuries in other provinces, may have their claims accepted and then move to Alberta where taxpayers in Alberta have to pay for income support and medical costs for a claimant whose work related injuries or illness occurred in another province. Does this happen. Of course it does. I know for a fact that Ms. Laseur who was one of the claimants who were denied benefits for a work related injury relative to chronic pain in Nova Scotia and cited as (Nova Scotia Workers compensation Board v. Martin/ Laseur) came to Edmonton and as far as I know still lives there. When she arranges a doctor's appointment for medications due to her compensable chronic pain, is any one actually that naive that the doctor in Edmonton is going to bill the Nova Scotia WCB for medical costs. The doctor will most certainly bill Alberta Health Care. Does the Dr. or Ms. Laseur care who pays for the medical services? How many other injured or disabled workers come to Alberta with work related medical problems that are billed to Alberta Health Care? 
To ensure that Income Support Programs and Alberta Health Care are not incurring the enormous costs due to the culture of denial that has been factually proven in Alberta by Justice Friedman and no doubt this culture of denial exists in all other provinces in Canada, all Income Support Programs as well as Alberta Health Care must investigate whether these claims were properly adjudicated. As a taxpayer in Alberta I do not believe my tax dollars should be used to pay for Income Support Programs as well as provide medical care for claimants whose claims and benefits have been illegally denied by WCB and more so to have to pay for claimant's medical costs who move to Alberta and use our Income Support Programs and Alberta Health Care services for work related injuries and illness incurred outside of Alberta. I am sure that taxpayers in other provinces feel the same way. Why should taxpayers in Newfoundland pay for Income support Programs and Health Benefits to residents in Newfoundland when a compensable injury or illness happened in another province. The same could be said for other provinces. 
I believe that the Conservative Government along with the Opposition must discuss this issue in the Legislature rather than trying to cover up for a system that does not look after the most vulnerable persons in our Society and that is workers who through no fault of their own are involved in work related accidents and rather than being cared for, have their claims and benefits illegally denied, then deliberately and with malice downloaded unto  decent and hardworking taxpayers. This is a major catastrophe that is far more important than oil and gas royalties debates or other less meaningful issues that the Conservative Government feels is more important than human rights abuses.
WCB is not only a Provincial disaster, it is a national disaster that must be addressed by the Ministers in charge of Provincial Health Care Services, Provincial Income Support Programs and the Provincial WCB systems to ensure that taxpayers are not paying for services that are the sole responsibility of WCB. Can I prove that this is happening. Absolutely! I never say anything that I cannot provide proof of. Why should I lie when I have got nothing to gain. I am not a disabled worker, have never filed a claim with WCB and never will. My concern is with the thousands of disabled workers who have been lied to and cheated by a system that was supposed to be there for them when they suffered a work related injury or occupational illness. I also am standing up for taxpayers who are being forced to provide assistance to disabled workers through high taxation. I also stand up for the regional health care boards who have been unfairly targeted for excessive costs in the health care system when a large proportion of the health care costs are costs downloaded by WCB. Is Alberta WCB the only one who on a regular basis illegally denies claims and benefits by manipulating the WCA, WC Regulations and WCB Policy and then downloads claims onto taxpayers. Of course not! This is done all over Canada with Alberta no worse than any other Provincial WCB system. 
There is only one alternative, either fix the system or abolish it.

Gerry Miller

(Gerry Miller is a long-time WCB critic in Alberta)

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