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WCRI finds stability in state comp treatment costs pre-COVID-19

workers comp

Stability is a common theme in pre-COVID-19 workers compensation medical treatment cost trends across 18 states studied by the Workers Compensation Research Institute, according to a report released Thursday. 

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based institute examined trends in payments, prices and utilization of medical care for workers with injuries for its annual benchmark report, providing analyses of how medical payments per claim and cost components varied from state to state between 2013 and 2019.

WCRI, in announcing the batch of 15 reports released Thursday, noted these key findings :

  • California: Average payments reflected the effects of multiple policy changes, including statewide reforms such as a drug formulary and fraud-fighting measures. The average nonhospital payment per claim has been fairly stable since 2015, decreasing 2% per year on average for claims at 12 months of experience, while hospital payments per claim grew 5% per year on average. 
  • Georgia: Medical payments were typical of other states but reflected offsetting factors such as that the average payment for nonhospital providers was higher than other study states and the average payment for hospital outpatient services was lower.
  • Michigan: Overall stable trends in nonhospital payments masked some variation among services. Payments per claim increased for physical medicine and services such as anesthesia, drugs, legal and special reports, and supplies and equipment; payments decreased for radiology and neurological testing and were stable for other key nonhospital services.
  • New Jersey: Medical payments per claim with more than seven days of lost time were about 14% to 21% higher than the median study state, depending on the claim maturity, driven largely by higher prices paid for professional, or nonhospital, services.
  • Pennsylvania: Medical payments per claim have been mostly stable since 2013. For claims at 12 months of experience, medical payments per claim increased 2.3% per year on average from 2013 to 2018, compared with growth of 7% to 8% per year on average from 2000 to 2013.

The 18 states in the study ― Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin ― represent more than 60% of the nation’s workers comp benefit payments. Individual reports are available for every state except Arkansas, Iowa and Tennessee.