A Montana lawmaker has proposed reducing the cost of state workers’ compensation insurance by prohibiting illegal immigrant workers from collecting benefits when they are injured.
House Bill 71, sponsored by Rep. Gordon Vance, R-Bozeman, would require a workers’ comp insurer to develop a verification process to determine if an injured employee is an illegal immigrant to ensure that no wage-loss or medical benefits for work-related injuries be paid to aliens. The exception, according to the bill text, is that benefits could be paid to an alien if he or she is an individual who was lawfully admitted for permanent residence at the time the injury occurred, was lawfully present for the purposes of performing the services that resulted in the work-related injury or disease, or was permanently residing in the United States under color of law at the time the services that resulted in the work-related injury or disease were performed.
Opponents of the bill told the Great Falls Tribune that the bill could lead to some employers wanting to hire illegal aliens to avoid paying workers’ comp, as well as could lead to lawsuits over the state’s authority to determine who is eligible for workers’ comp benefits, and lawsuits from illegal aliens who are injured on the job and have no other avenue to get compensated for their injuries.
Montana has the highest workers’ compensation costs in the country, at $3.33 per $100 of payroll, according to a 2010 workers’ compensation premium rate ranking summary conducted by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.
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