The Workers' Compensation System

Brief History

The idea that workers should be compensated for work-related injuries, and that governments should administer programs to ensure compensation, spread to the United States from Europe during the opening decade of the 20th century. Texas enacted its first Workers' Compensation law in 1913. Today, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have Workers' Compensation.

In 1917, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could legally require employers to provide compensation to injured workers. As a result, many states revised their laws to include mandatory Workers' Compensation. Texas revised its Workers' Compensation law in 1917 but retained voluntary employer participation in the system. Today, Texas is the only state that allows employers to choose whether or not to provide Workers' Compensation (although public employers, and employers who enter into a building or construction contract with a governmental entity, must provide Workers' Compensation).

The 1917 Texas law provided the basic framework for the state's Workers' Compensation system for the next 72 years. In 1989, after much controversy, a new Texas Workers' Compensation law was enacted, becoming effective in 1991. Provisions of this law set up specific billing and reporting requirements for physicians treating injured workers and enact a new income benefit and administrative dispute systems.  During the 2001 Texas legislative session, lawmakers passed House Bill 2600 (HB 2600), which significantly changed the delivery of health care to injured Texas workers.


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