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date: 16 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes the history and current status of workers’ compensation programs in the United States. Workers’ compensation, the oldest social insurance system in the United States, was designed to provide medical and cash benefits to people with work-related injuries and illnesses while protecting employers from liability. Primarily established state by state, these programs vary significantly among jurisdictions. The chapter explores several disturbing themes: the failure of these systems to provide benefits for many occupationally caused injuries and illnesses; the questionable adequacy of benefit levels; confusion and humiliation of applicants; and the recurring political issue of fraud. The chapter also briefly describes the relationship of workers’ compensation programs with other disability and health insurance systems, employment relations, and workplace safety regulation. It closes with questions about the future of workers’ compensation in the United States.

Keywords: workers’ compensation, occupational safety and health, disability insurance, health insurance, social insurance

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