Category Archives: Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation and the working poor: Occupational health experience among low wage workers in federally qualified health centers

Source: Liza Topete, Linda Forst, Joseph Zanoni and Lee Friedman, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, January 31, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The working poor are at highest risk of work-related injuries and have limited access to occupational health care.

To explore community health centers (CHCs) as a venue for accessing at risk workers; and to examine the experience, knowledge, and perceptions of workers’ compensation (WC) among the working poor.

Key informant interviews were conducted among patients in waiting rooms of rural and urban CHCs.

Fifty-one interviews of minority workers across sectors identified 23 prior work-related injuries and mixed experiences with the WC system. Barriers to reporting and ways to overcome these barriers were elucidated.

Patients in CHCs work in jobs that put them at risk for work-related injuries. CHCs are a good site for accessing at-risk workers. Improving occupational healthcare and appropriate billing of WC insurance should be explored, as should best practices for employers to communicate WC laws to low wage workers.

Florida’s disposable workers: Companies profit from undocumented laborers, dump them after injuries

Source: Maria Perez, Naples Daily News, December 14, 2017

Florida law makes some immigrants in high-risk jobs disposable, allowing businesses and insurers to benefit from their work without covering injuries. …. Some Florida businesses profit from the labor of unauthorized immigrants after accepting phony identification when hiring them, and then the employers or their insurers report them after a work injury for using false documents, a yearlong Naples Daily News investigation found. ….

Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage, and Costs

Source: Christopher F. McLaren and Marjorie L. Baldwin, National Academy of Social Insurance, October 2017

From the abstract:
Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage, and Costs is the twentieth in a series by the National Academy of Social Insurance to provide the only comprehensive national data on this largely state-run program. The study provides estimates of workers’ compensation payments—cash and medical—for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and federal programs providing workers’ compensation.
*Note: Due to the large size of the file, the report may take a few moments to download

View an infographic.
Read the national press release.
Read state-specific findings for California, Illinois, Oklahoma, Washington State, and West Virginia
Download a document detailing the sources and methods used to produce the state-level estimates in the report.

Workers’ Compensation: Analysis for Its Second Century

Source: H. Allan Hunt, Marcus Dillender, W.E. Upjohn Institute, 2017

From the abstract:
Hunt and Dillender review the status of workers’ compensation programs on three critical performance areas: 1) the adequacy of compensation for those disabled in the workplace, 2) return-to-work performance for injured workers, and 3) prevention of disabling injury and disease.

Health risk factors as predictors of workers’ compensation claim occurrence and cost

Source: Natalie V Schwatka, Adam Atherly, Miranda J Dally, Hai Fang, Claire vS Brockbank, Liliana Tenney, Ron Z Goetzel, Kimberly Jinnett, Roxana Witter, Stephen Reynolds, James McMillen, Lee S Newman, , Occupational and Environmental Medicine (OEM), Volume 74, Issue 1, January 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Objective The objective of this study was to examine the predictive relationships between employee health risk factors (HRFs) and workers’ compensation (WC) claim occurrence and costs.
Methods Logistic regression and generalised linear models were used to estimate the predictive association between HRFs and claim occurrence and cost among a cohort of 16 926 employees from 314 large, medium and small businesses across multiple industries. First, unadjusted (HRFs only) models were estimated, and second, adjusted (HRFs plus demographic and work organisation variables) were estimated.
Results Unadjusted models demonstrated that several HRFs were predictive of WC claim occurrence and cost. After adjusting for demographic and work organisation differences between employees, many of the relationships previously established did not achieve statistical significance. Stress was the only HRF to display a consistent relationship with claim occurrence, though the type of stress mattered. Stress at work was marginally predictive of a higher odds of incurring a WC claim (p<0.10). Stress at home and stress over finances were predictive of higher and lower costs of claims, respectively (p<0.05). Conclusions The unadjusted model results indicate that HRFs are predictive of future WC claims. However, the disparate findings between unadjusted and adjusted models indicate that future research is needed to examine the multilevel relationship between employee demographics, organisational factors, HRFs and WC claims.

Workers’ compensation filings of temporary workers compared to direct hire workers in Illinois, 2007–2012

Source: Dana Madigan, Linda Forst and Lee S. Friedman, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, November 15, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: The physical and psychological risks of temporary employment are well documented but there are still many questions regarding the consequences of injuries among these workers.

Methods: This analysis examines Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission filings from 2007 through 2012 to compare total cost of the decision, days of work missed, and percent disability of employees of temporary agencies with direct hire claims.

Results: Total award median was $5,813.66 for direct hire employees and $2,625.00 for temporary workers. Of those employees claiming time off from work, median total time off was 1.3 weeks for direct hire employees compared to 1.2 weeks for temporary workers. Median total percent disability was 16.0% for direct hire and 10.0% for temporary employees.

Conclusions: There are differences between temporary workers and direct hire employees in terms of total workers’ compensation awards, total time off, and percent disability. Additional studies are needed to validate these findings. Am. J. Ind. Med. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

U.S. Labor Department: States Are Failing Injured Workers

Source: Michael Grabell, ProPublica, October 5, 2016

A new Department of Labor report says cuts to state workers’ comp systems have left injured workers with inadequate benefits and raises the specter of federal oversight. The findings echo those of a ProPublica and NPR investigation last year.
Does The Workers’ Compensation System Fulfill Its Obligations To Injured Workers?
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, October 2016

State-based workers’ compensation programs provide critical support to workers who are injured or made sick by their jobs. These programs are a key component of the country’s social benefit structure and of occupational safety policy, and the only major component of the social safety net with no federal oversight or minimum national standards. This Report provides an introduction to these programs, but it also sounds an alarm: working people are at great risk of falling into poverty as a result of workplace injuries and the failure of state workers’ compensation systems to provide them with adequate benefits.

Despite the sizable cost of workers’ compensation, only a small portion of the overall costs of occupational injury and illness is borne by employers. Costs are instead shifted away from employers, often to workers, their families and communities. Other social benefit systems – including Social Security retirement benefits, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicare, and, most recently, health care provided under the Affordable Care Act – have expanded our social safety net, while the workers’ compensation safety net has been shrinking. There is growing evidence that costs of workplace-related disability are being transferred to other benefit programs, placing additional strains on these programs at a time when they are already under considerable stress.

Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage, and Costs

Source: Marjorie L. Baldwin and Christopher F. McLaren, National Academy of Social Insurance, October 2016

From the abstract:
Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage, and Costs is the nineteenth in a series by the National Academy of Social Insurance to provide the only comprehensive national data on this largely state-run program. The study provides estimates of workers’ compensation payments—cash and medical—for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and federal programs providing workers’ compensation.
press release

Shhh! America’s Most Common Workplace Injury Is Hearing Loss

Source: Zhai Yun Tan, Kaiser Health News, September 9, 2016

….Ammon is not alone in suffering from workplace-related hearing loss. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is the most common work-related injury with approximately 22 million workers exposed annually to hazardous levels of occupational noise. Workers in the mining sector, followed by those in construction and manufacturing, are most likely to suffer from hearing impairment. An estimated $242 million is spent on worker’s compensation annually for hearing loss disability, according to the Department of Labor….

Workers’ Compensation: Overview and Issues

Source: Scott D. Szymendera, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R44580, August 3, 2016

Workers’ compensation provides cash and medical benefits to workers who are injured or become ill in the course of their employment and provides benefits to the survivors of workers killed on the job. Benefits are provided without regard to fault and are the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Nearly all workers in the United States are covered by workers’ compensation. With the exception of federal employees and some small groups of private-sector employees covered by federal law, workers compensation is provided by a network of state programs. In general, employers purchase insurance to provide for workers’ compensation benefits.

Workers’ compensation has been called a grand bargain between employers and workers that developed at the beginning of the 20th century in response to dissatisfaction with the tort system as a method of compensating workers for occupational injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Under this grant bargain, workers’ receive guaranteed, no-fault benefits for injuries, illnesses, and deaths, but forfeit their rights to sue their employers. Employers receive protection from lawsuits but must provide benefits regardless of fault.

Recently, concerns have been raised over what some allege are cuts to state workers’ compensation benefits or policy changes that make it harder for workers to receive the benefits they deserve. These cuts and policy changes may be shifting some of the costs associated with workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths away from the employer and to the employee or social programs, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicare.

There is no federal requirement that states have workers’ compensation systems and no minimum federal standards for state systems. The decentralized nature of workers’ compensation led to unsuccessful calls for minimum state standards in the early 1970s and has caused concerns over benefit equity among the states today.

In 2013, Oklahoma joined Texas in making its workers’ compensation system noncompulsory. Unlike in Texas, Oklahoma employers may opt-out of workers’ compensation by offering alternative benefits to employees and keep their protection from lawsuits, whereas Texas employers are exposed to legal liability in the event of employee injury when employers opt-out of worker’s compensation. The constitutionality of the Oklahoma system, as well as to what extent the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) applies to these alternate benefit plans, are currently being adjudicated in the courts.