The Workers Compensation Research Institute (WRCI) recently released a comprehensive report regarding workers’ compensation predictors of worker outcomes that included surveys from eight states. These eight states included Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania Virginia and Wisconsin. This study was considered Phase I of a four-part study that will ultimately include 20 states and a tool for policymakers and stakeholders alike to better craft workers’ compensation laws, regulations and policies.
The Overall State of Workers’ Compensation
According to the WCRI, injured workers who participated in the study expressed concern about “trust” when dealing with employers and insurers in the workers’ compensation system. This theme seemed to echo the common belief claimants typically express when entering the complex maze of the process by filing a workers’ compensation claim or are injured at work.
Recovery of Physical Health and Functioning
One factor that complicates any workers’ compensation claim is pre-existing conditions that are aggravated or accelerated by the work injury, or by other comorbid conditions that prevent a full recovery and functionability. Some of these conditions are becoming increasingly prevalent in the United States such as obesity.
• Claimants who have hypertension are at a greater chance of not working post-injury;
• Injured workers with heart problems have an 8% greater chance of not working post-injury; and
• Claimants suffering from diabetes have a 4% change of not working post-injury.
The Status of Return-to-Work
Survey respondents also expressed anxiety about suffering a work injury and returning to work, or being involved in a return-to-work program. Of the claimants participating in the survey, roughly 20% reported they had concerns about being fired as a result of their injury. This resulted in reports of longer absences from work post-injury as well as increased periods of disability. Of the workers who expressed concerns about their employability post-injury, it was also noted that they experienced poorer return-to-work outcomes.
Other Areas Covered by Study
The WCRI report also covered other areas that play an important role in a workers’ compensation claim. These factors included the nature of a work injury, worker characteristics, attributes of the work environment and labor market conditions. Attention to the growing diversity of the workforce in the various covered states was also examined, included English language proficiency.
Workers’ Compensation and Public Policy
Many parties have an important role when it comes to public policy concern workers’ compensation laws, regulations and policy interpretations. However, the report prepared by the WCRI is intended to extend beyond politicians and attorneys, and can involve healthcare providers and facilities. One noted area where health care officials can be involved in workers’ compensation policy lies in the area of helping claimants with pre-existing conditions overcome the challenges they face for a better long-term result.
Additional Studies to Follow
The WCRI plans to use Phase I of their investigation and research to identify essential predictors for worker outcomes. The future phases of this study include the following:
• Phase II: Include an expanded number of states using the same methodology to serve as comparisons and validate the date compiled in Phase I.
• Phase III: Obtain information from up to 20 states so they can gauge and evaluate the data received to assist policymakers and stakeholders in developing an effective system.
• Phase IV: Review jurisdictions with significant system reform to determine if those reforms had an impact on the workers’ compensation system.
To purchase any one of these reports, visit the list of our most recently published studies: http://www.wcrinet.org/recent_pub.html.
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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