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California comp hospitalizations drop in 2021


The number of California hospital stays under workers compensation fell by 5.7% in 2021, continuing a trend in which comp hospitalizations declined at a faster pace than hospital stays under private medical coverage, according to a new study by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute. 

The CWCI study, titled Trends in the Utilization of Inpatient Care in California Workers’ Compensation, measured inpatient medical services under different coverage systems and looked at more than 35.3 million hospital stays between 2012 and 2021.

The figures from 2021 brought the total decline during the past 10 years to 48.1%, which is more than triple the decade-long decline of 15% for hospital stays under private coverage, according to the study.

In total, workers comp inpatient hospitalizations represented just 0.5% of all California inpatient stays during the 10-year study period and 0.3% in 2021.

The study compared volume and types of inpatient care covered by workers comp insurance, Medicare, Medi-Cal and private coverage.

Researchers at the CWCI attributed the decline in comp hospitalizations to several factors, including fluctuations in number and types of claims, adoption of new review programs requiring that treatment meets evidence-based medicine standards, and a reduction in the number of spinal fusion procedures, which are more prevalent among the injured worker inpatient population than the general population.

The study determined that while musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders continue to be a main driver of inpatient stays under workers comp, COVID-19 claims were determined to make up more of the share in recent time since such claims were first introduced into the comp system.

Surgical inpatient stays are more prevalent under workers comp than in other systems, the study found, with results showing they made up more than two-thirds of injured worker stays in 2021.