THE DENVER POST, 1/23/02
An expensive mandate
Wednesday, January 23, 2002 - In his "State of the
State" address, Gov.
Bill Owens asked the Colorado legislature to repeal some
mandates that have driven up the cost of health insurance for
business. In that same vein, we urge the legislature to bury
Senate Bill 6,
an expensive new mandate that will burden public employers and
SB 6, by Sen. Deanna Hanna, D-Lakewood, would require the
compensation system to assume that all cases of hepatitis C in
safety workers were contracted during the normal course of
and therefore must be covered under worker's compensation.
That sounds reasonable - until you look at the facts. The
determined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, are as
Most cases of hepatitis C result from "lifestyle
factors," rather than
occupational risks. That's a polite way of saying that most
from intravenous drug use with dirty needles or from multiple
Public safety workers, including those performing emergency
no greater risk of contracting hepatitis C than the general
Health care workers have the lowest risk of all occupational
contracting hepatitis C.
Even if health care workers do get accidentally stuck with
needles, they have only a 1.8 percent chance of contracting
Yet, SB 6 would ignore these scientific facts and order public
assume responsibility for all cases of this disease contracted
safety workers unless the employer can prove, by "clear
evidence," that the employee didn't get it on the job.
Since it is usually
impossible to prove the negative, that means public employers,
ultimately Colorado taxpayers, would have to assume
responsibility for the
vast majority of hepatitis C cases in public safety workers
actually contracted by illegal drug use or multiple sex
costs, by the way, are huge. The Colorado Municipal League
reports that a
single case of hepatitis C can require an employer to set
aside $400,000 in
Hepatitis C, like any other injury, is already covered by
compensation when it actually is incurred during the course
and scope of
employment. That's as it should be. But working for the
not give anyone the right to bill the taxpayers for the
irresponsible private behavior.
SB 6 is unfair to Colorado taxpayers. The Senate Health,
Children and Families committee should kill it at its
scheduled hearing today.