When employers pay more for the medical care of injured workers, employees should experience better outcomes. This "good value proposition" was the subject of a new study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute, a Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit organization that analyzes and researches workers' comp policy in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The study reported the "better" value proposition to be in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
In these states, employers paid less for medical care, yet workers had generally better recoveries after their injuries, were more likely to return to sustainable employment and do so more quickly, experienced more timely medical treatment from their primary providers, experienced fewer problems accessing medical care and were less likely to be dissatisfied with their care.
North Carolina had a "moderate" value proposition. Researchers pointed out that, while the costs that employers paid for medical care in the state were in the median of study states, there were opportunities to further improve the system, such as in achieving better outcomes for injured workers at a lower cost.
By contrast, a "worse" value proposition was found in California, Florida, Tennessee and Texas, prior to the enactment of recent reforms to their workers' compensation systems.
In particular, medical costs and utilization in prereform California and prereform Texas were higher than in the other study states, while worker outcomes were generally in the middle of the range or worse in all categories.
The study described these two states as having a "worse" value proposition for employers and injured workers because employers there paid much more for medical care compared to the seven other states studied.
Yet workers experienced generally worse recoveries after injury, were less likely to have substantial returns-to-work, were more likely to experience problems accessing medical care and expressed higher rates of dissatisfaction with their medical care.
The WCRI study, "Comparing Outcomes for Injured Workers in Nine Large States," looked at worker outcomes by: recovery of health and functioning, return-to-work, access to medical care, and satisfaction with medical care with data on the costs and utilization of workers' comp medical care.
By comparing these overall characterizations of worker outcomes, along with the relative assessment of medical costs and utilization, researchers categorized the states--California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin--into three groups--those that provided "better," "moderate" or "worse" value proposition for workers and employers.
"Combined with other benchmarks of costs and medical utilization, these comparisons can allow public officials and system stakeholders to begin to focus on critical 'win-win' opportunities for workers and their employers--possible improvements in the system that can result in better worker outcomes without raising employers' costs or, conversely, those that can lower costs without adversely affecting workers' outcomes," said Richard Victor, executive director of WCRI.
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September 1, 2007
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