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24-hour comp integration and universal care


A study by University of California, Berkeley researcher Frank Neuhauser is drawing great interest for concluding that integrating comp medical care into group health could save up to $560 billion nationwide over 10 years.

Blog postings have taken up the 24-hour care subject and Mr. Neuhauser tells Comp Time he has received a lot of requests for his study. It is available here, and a Business Insurance summary of it is available here.

The study is provocative, and an accompanying report states that the savings could pay for 26% to 78% of the incremental cost of universal coverage. Savings would result from the greater efficiency with which health insurance delivers care compared to workers' compensation insurance, according to the study.

Mr. Neuhauser is a respected researcher who has conducted past studies on California's comp system.

He always has an interesting perspective, Bill Zachry, vp of risk management for Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway Inc. tells Comp Time. But much of the work comp system's overhead is driven by regulations promulgated to assure timely and adequate care, Mr. Zachry says.

There are other cost differences in the two systems, Mr. Zachry points out. The focus of comp treatment, unlike in group health, is returning employees to work and the group health system has co-payments.

“The devil is in the details,” Mr. Zachry says.

Other insurance industry professionals commenting on a Linkedin work comp forum say the 24-hour integration idea won't work and they pointed out problems they see with the study.

Accessing those postings requires a Linkedin registration that is available here.

Comp Time agrees a federal 24-hour care system is not likely to get serious consideration at this point.

But it's an important issue to research, so kudos to Mr. Neuhauser and his funding providers for looking at the issue.

Also, Comp Time notices that much of the discussion has focused on costs and dollar amounts used in Mr. Neuhauser's study. Costs are immensely important. But what about the potential to improve care?

Detractors are likely to point out such a system wouldn't help care delivery, but Comp Time finds it interesting the care of injured workers hasn't surfaced in this debate.

Meanwhile, Mr. Zachry agrees the comp system could do better in reducing administration costs. But, he says, “it will take significant changes in thought and philosophy on the part of all parties, as well as significant legislation.”

Changes in thought and philosophy, that seems to be what Mr. Neuhauser's study lays the groundwork for.