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Standardized benefits paid to injured workers from 2015 to 2019 have continued to drop, in line with a 10-year trend, according to a study released Thursday by the National Academy of Social Insurance.
In studying data on coverage of the U.S. labor force, the cost of that coverage, and benefits paid to workers at both the national level and across states, researchers found that standardized cash and medical benefits — described as the total benefits per $100 of covered wages — fell by 14.0% and 16.7%, respectively, combining for a 15.4% decline in total standardized benefits between 2015 and 2019.
The report cited “considerable cross-state differences” within standardized benefits, where only one state, Hawaii, saw an increase over the study period at 1.9%. Declines ranged from 2.4% in Massachusetts to 30.5% in Tennessee and 33.1% in Oklahoma. Over the five-year study period, 24 states observed standardized benefit declines exceeding 15% and 11 of those states, exceeding 20%.
The report also highlighted that while medical benefits as a share of total benefits have increased in recent decades “the national average masks enormous variation across states.” In 2019, for example, medical benefits constituted 49.6% of all workers compensation benefits paid out, yet they are only 29.8% of benefits in D.C. and 79.1% of benefits paid in Wisconsin.
Prescription payments for injured workers have fallen rapidly in California since 2013, while in Texas medical payments per claim increased from 2017 to 2019, according to a report released Tuesday by the Workers Compensation Research Institute.