New Studies Help Predict Workers Compensation Outcomes
Eight new state-specific studies from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) recently identified new predictors of worker outcomes. These predictors can help public officials, payors, and health care providers improve the treatment and communication an injured worker receives after an injury, which ultimately will lead to better worker’s compensation outcomes.
“Better information about the predictors of poorer worker outcomes may allow payors and doctors to better target health care and return-to-work interventions to those most at risk,” said Dr. Richard Victor, WCRI’s executive director.
Trust, which had not been examined before, in the workplace was pegged to be one of the more important predictors among the studies. To describe the level of trust or mistrust in a working relationship, the studies’ interviewers asked employees if they worried about being fired as a result of the injury. The following are some findings from the studies as it relates to this predictor:
- Employees who are strongly concerned about being fired after an injury experienced poorer return-to-work outcomes than workers without those concerns.
- One in five workers concerned about being fired reported that they were not working at the time the survey took place. This was double the rate that was observed for workers without such concerns. Among workers who were not concerned about being fired, one in ten workers was not working at the time of the survey.
- Concerns about being fired were associated with a four-week increase in the average duration of disability.
In fact, it’s been found according to other studies that injured employees fearing they may get fired will use their health insurance for doctor visits and, if they need time off work, they may use any sick days or short-term disability time instead of filing a worker’s comp claim. However, most doctors’ offices screen for injuries that happened at work, and if they determine that it is a work-related injury, they will look to bill the employer’s worker’s comp insurance provider.
Moreover, an employer cannot fire a worker as retaliation for solely filing a worker’s comp claim. It is the right of injured worker to file a claim.
The WCRI studies also identified workers with specific comorbid medical conditions (coexisting or co-occurring conditions) by asking whether an employee had received treatment for hypertension, diabetes, and heart problems. The medical condition may have been present at the time of the injury or may have manifested during the recovery period. Among those findings:
- Employees with hypertension (when compared with workers without hypertension) had a three-percentage point higher rate of not working at the time of the interview predominantly due to injury.
- Workers with heart problems reported an eight-percentage point higher rate of not working at the time of interview predominantly due to injury and had disability duration that was four weeks longer.
- Workers with diabetes had a four-percentage point higher rate of not working at the time of the interview predominantly due to injury than workers without diabetes.
The WCRI studies were based on telephone interviews with 3,200 injured workers across eight states: Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The studies interviewed workers who suffered a work place injury in 2010 and received worker’s compensation income benefits. The surveys were conducted during February through June 2013-on average, about three years after these workers sustained their injuries.
Caitlin Morgan provides Workers Compensation solutions for employers — from minimum premium accounts or a tougher to place risk. Give our professionals a call at 877.226.1027.