Senator Bill Dotzler

Republicans in the Iowa Senate have voted to create a new unit in state government to investigate allegations of fake workers compensation claims.

Democrats like Senator Bill Dotzler of Waterloo say businesses will use the threat of an investigation to intimidate injured employees into withdrawing their claims.

“This stuff makes my skin crawl. It’s affecting people’s real lives and evidently you’re not bothered by it,” Dotzler said. “Well, I am ’cause some of these people are my friends and I know ’em and I know what they’re going through.”

Senator Nate Boulton, a Democrat from Des Moines, said the bill is focused on workers, not on businesses or insurance companies that commit workers comp fraud.

“I think this is an incredibly insulting and unfair bill to working Iowans who have the misfortune of suffering a serious injury on the job,” Boulton said.

Senator Jake Chapman

Senator Jake Chapman, a Republican from Adel, said most other states have “dedicated” units that investigate workers comp fraud.

“This has no impact on a fair worker who is claiming an injury, who has a legitimate injury,” Chapman said, “but we should be united against fraud — every single one of us.”

The new fraud unit would have “an in-house prosecutor” as well as other investigators if the bill becomes law.

“This is not a victimless crime,” Chapman said. “Every time someone commits fraud, we pay for it…in increased costs of premiums or increased costs of goods and services.”

The bill did not set aside any money for creating the new investigative unit. Under current practice, state investigators work with county prosecutors on workers comp fraud complaints.