Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage, and Costs, 2009

Source: Ishita Sengupta, Virginia Reno, and John F. Burton, Jr. , National Academy of Social Insurance, August 2011

This is the fourteenth report the Academy has issued on workers’ compensation national data. Before the National Academy of Social Insurance began the publication, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) produced the only comprehensive national data on workers’ compensation benefits and costs with annual estimates dating back to 1946. SSA discontinued the series in 1995 after publishing data for 1992-93.

This report provides a benchmark of the coverage, benefits, and costs of workers’ compensation in 2009, to facilitate policymaking and comparisons with other social insurance and employee benefit programs….Key estimates from this year’s report are summarized below.

National Trends:
– Workers’ compensation programs in the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and federal programs paid $58.3 billion in benefits in 2009, an increase of 0.4 percent from $58.1 billion in 2008.
– Medical payments decreased by 1.1 percent, to $28.9 billion, in 2009 but cash benefits to injured workers increased by 1.9 percent to $29.4 billion.
– Costs to employers fell by 7.6 percent in 2009 to $73.9 billion. This is the largest percentage decline in employer costs since 1987.
– Workers’ compensation covered an estimated 124.9 million workers in 2009, a decrease of 4.4 percent from the previous year due to the recession, which began in 2007. Aggregate wages of covered workers fell by 4.7 percent in 2009.
– Measured as a percentage of the wages of covered workers, benefits paid to workers increased whereas employer costs fell in 2009. As a share of covered wages, employers’ costs in 2009 were lower than in any year since 1980
– A total of 4,551 fatal work injuries occurred in 2009, which is a 12.7 percent decrease from the number reported in 2008, and the lowest since 1992.

State Trends:
– Between 2008 and 2009, the total amount of benefits paid to injured workers declined in 27 jurisdictions while the remaining 24 jurisdictions experienced an increase in benefit payments.
– Among the 51 jurisdictions (including the District of Columbia), on average from 2008 to 2009, medical benefits declined in 27 states and cash benefits increased in 28 states.

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