excluded. All things considered, it is remarkable that they accomplished as much as they did in little over a year.
Though not specifically charged to do so by Congress, the Commission did discuss a greater role for the national government. “No topic received more attention at our hearings” than how best to implement the Commission’s policy recommendations (1972: 125). One option considered was to disassemble workers’ compensation and combine several of the parts with existing national programs. Total and permanent disability claims could be handled by disability insurance, medical care by Medicare or a future national health insurance plan, and safety objectives by OSHA. The Commission found several problems with this plan, such as the lack of coverage for permanent partial disabilities, the time delay in receiving DI benefits, and the prospect of injured workers shuttling among multiple agencies for help.
The Commission openly rejected a national takeover of the program, though the reasons cited were rather curious. The Commission noted that “a Federal takeover would substantially disrupt established administrative arrangements” (1972: 126) without ever saying whether injured workers or state-level bureaucrats and private insurers would suffer. And it declared that the national government had shown no special skill in administering workers’ compensation for its own employees, but offered little supporting evidence.
Instead, the Commission recommended that states be given three years to comply with the 19 essential elements “and, if necessary, Congress with no further delay ... should guarantee compliance” (1972: 127). All Commission members agreed that states had the technical and economic capacity to comply in short order; the main impediment was political will. If states failed to comply, a minority of the Commission advocated a complete national takeover of workers’ compensation. The majority, however, felt that national standards would be more appropriate. But they left it up to Congress to decide if such standards, or any action at all, were necessary after three years.
The most likely explanation for this odd combination of detailed criticism and reluctance to depart from state-level control was the inclusion of numerous stakeholders in the Commission. They knew exactly what was wrong and wanted another chance to make things right. Of the 18 members, four (including the vice-chairman) had direct connections to state agencies responsible for workers’ compensation, two were from the insurance industry, one administered workers’ compensation for the Ford Motor Company, and one represented the American Medical Association. A few others were academics who had never challenged the basic structure of workers’ compensation in their writings. By law, the Departments of Labor, Commerce, and HEW were also represented, and being from the Nixon administration they were not pushing to nationalize. Though diverse in occupational background, the majority of Commission members shared a strong preference for state-level control. The only members who went on record with serious reservations