Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Workers’ Comp Costs Rising is Pennsylvania

Another study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) shows that workers’ compensation costs per claim in Pennsylvania grew rapidly in 2005 and 2006.

The average total cost of claims filed by employees who missed more than seven days of work grew at a rate of 6 percent to 10 percent. The study compared Pennsylvania to 14 other states.

Total costs per claim in Pennsylvania were fairly typical of the 14 study states. This result, however, masked several offsetting factors. On the one hand, medical payments per claim with more than seven days of lost time were lower than the 14-state median and more workers returned to work in a week or less than in many other study states. On the other hand, compared to the median study state, Pennsylvania had higher indemnity benefits per claim with more than seven days of lost time and higher litigation-related expenses.

The study reported that medical payments per claim with more than seven days of lost time in Pennsylvania were 12 percent lower than the median of the study states for 2003 claims evaluated in 2006.

Another WCRI study found that the main reasons for the lower medical costs per claim were lower-than-typical prices paid for some services, physician visits that were less resource intensive, and hospital inpatient and outpatient costs per claim
that were much lower than typical.

However, the average indemnity benefit per claim with more than seven days of lost time in Pennsylvania was 19 percent higher than the median of the 14 study states in 2003/2006 claims. This result, in part, reflects some characteristics of the Pennsylvania wage-loss benefit system.

The average expense of delivering indemnity and medical benefits to injured workers in Pennsylvania rose 10 percent in 2005/2006. During the whole study period, benefit delivery expenses per claim grew rapidly (9-15 percent per year), driven primarily by increases in medical cost containment expenses per claim.

The average benefit delivery expense per claim in Pennsylvania was 22 percent higher than the typical study state for 2003/2006 claims with more than seven days of lost time and expenses, a result driven mainly by higher litigation-related expenses per claim.

The study noted that Pennsylvania was not among the most litigious states. However, defense attorney payments per claim were 34 percent higher than the 14-state median for 2003/2006 claims, suggesting a somewhat more expensive and perhaps more complex dispute resolution process.

The study also found there was little recent change in Pennsylvania in the speed of the first indemnity payment. The percentage of claims with more than seven days of lost time that were paid within 21 days of injury remained stable in 2005/2006.

For more information on the other states studied by the WCRI, visit http://www.wcrinet.org/.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Jersey to Address Workers’ Compensation Backlog

In response to a series of newspaper articles from the Star-Ledger in New Jersey that revealed many injured workers are waiting years for their workers’ compensation benefits because of delays, politics and poor state oversight, the state Senate will take up the issue. A special hearing is scheduled in May before the New Jersey Senate Labor Committee.

"It's appropriate to take a close look at the workers' compensation system to see whether it can be made more efficient," said State Sen. Paul Sarlo. "The recent media focus on the system gives us a chance to see if we can make it a better, fairer program so nobody falls through the cracks."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Workplace Deaths Among Hispanics Reach All-Time High

In 2006, 937 Hispanic workers died on the job.

Hispanics are more likely to be killed on the job than workers of any other ethnic group, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hispanic worker fatalities accounted for 16 percent of the 5,703 total fatal work injuries. That equates to 4.7 fatalities per 100,000 Hispanic workers, a death rate that is 21 percent higher than for all workers.

According to a recent New York Times article:

Often hired for low-end jobs like construction labor and meatpacking, Hispanic immigrants in the United States die from workplace injuries at a far higher rate than other workers.

In recent years the rate of on-the-job deaths for all Hispanics has been 20 percent higher than for whites or blacks, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has found. The death rate for Hispanics in construction, an industry that has hired many immigrants in recent years, is even higher, occupational experts say.

Job safety officials say that Hispanic immigrants, often unskilled and often here illegally, are hired disproportionately into many of the most dangerous jobs, like roofing, fruit picking and taxi driving.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Reported carpal tunnel cases on the decline

The number of workers reporting carpal tunnel injuries has declined steeply in recent years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While the reasons aren't entirely clear, the number of reported carpal tunnel cases dropped 21 percent in 2006 alone. The number of professional and business service workers reporting a carpal tunnel diagnosis fell by nearly half between 2005 and 2006.

Such numbers have led many doctors to believe that typing and keyboarding aren't as significant factors in carpal tunnel as originally believed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The (Back) Pain of Being a Nurse

Nurses are at high risk for developing back pain or suffering a back injury on the job.

Many people are surprised to learn the nursing is the riskiest occupation for back injuries! In fact, nursing has the second highest incidence of all types of non-fatal work-related injuries in the U.S.A.

Some simple safety measures could reverse this trend:

  • an ergonomic evaluation of patient handling - identification of ergonomic risk factors
  • pilot testing of equipment designed to reduce injury risks, especially in patient transferring activities
  • purchase of new equipment identified as being most effective by the testing
  • train-the-trainer program - in this way trainers can impart their knowledge to others and so on
  • training of 374 nurses and other patient handling staff (approximately one-half of the nursing staff at the hospital).

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Better Option for Disability Benefits?

The National Center for Policy Analysis proposes an alternative to Social Security Disability, which would preserve benefits when disabled people return to work.

Under their proposed plan, instead of paying payroll taxes, workers and their employers would make deposits into a personal account. These accounts would earn interest and could be used to provide disability benefits or retirement benefits.

Researchers ask the question:

What would happen to a 42-year-old American worker if both the employer and employee disability taxes were instead deposited into an individual disability account?

For the answer, check out the NCPA Web site.