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Workers compensation benefits paid to injured workers continue to decline, although covered employment and wages have continued to rise, according to study released Thursday by the National Academy of Social Insurance.
In 2017, $62 billion in workers compensation benefits were paid, but medical benefits declined nearly 20% between 2013 and 2017 and cash benefits declined just under 17% in this same period, the Washington-based academy noted in its annual Workers Compensation Benefits, Costs and Coverage report. The researchers used data from 2017 and compared trends in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Comparing 2017 benefits with 20 years ago, the study found that worker benefits have decreased to 80 cents per $100 of covered wages in 2017 from $1.17 in 1997.
Employer costs for workers compensation have increased, but have decreased as a percentage of covered wages overall, and declines in both workers comp benefits and employer costs have continued to be sustained, according to the study. Employers paid out $97.6 billion in workers comp costs in 2017, a 9.1% increase since 2013, but as a percentage of covered wages, employers’ costs were $1.25 per $100 of covered wages in 2017, down $0.12, or 8.8% from 2013.
However, jobs covered by workers comp increased in all jurisdictions except Alaska, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming, and wages also increased in almost every state between 2013 and 2017, although at a slower rate than in the past few years, according to the research.
The study also noted that evidence suggests that many injured workers are not receiving the cash benefits or medical care they need.
A recent court case in Kentucky that retroactively limits workers compensation benefits caught the attention of the National Council on Compensation Insurance, which issued a news release about the case Friday.