Comparing Outcomes for Injured Workers in Seven Large States

By Richard A. Victor, Sharon E. Belton, Te-Chun Liu

January 1, 2006 Related Topics: Access to Care, Outcomes for Injured Workers, Return to Work

This report is the third in a series of reports measuring key outcomes for workers injured on the job and who receive medical care and income benefits. The core worker outcomes analyzed span the central issues that, in addition to claim costs, are typically the focus of public policy debates:

  • Recovery of physical health and functioning
  • Return to work –  the speed of return to work and the sustainability of the initial return to work
  • Access to health care
  • Satisfaction with health care

The seven represent large and diverse systems, with differing state laws about choice of provider, medical fee schedules, claim costs and other system features. Combined with other benchmarks of costs and medical utilization, the outcomes in this report will help public officials and others identify “win-win” situations for workers and their employers – system improvements that result in better outcomes for workers without raising employers’ costs or those that lower costs without adversely affecting workers’ outcomes.

 Among our findings:

Better outcomes for injured workers occurred in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin even though workers in California, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas generally had more visits with medical care providers and received more medical services that generated more medical expenses for employers. Further, better outcomes in these states occurred despite the fact that, on average, workers from each of the seven states perceived their injuries to be of similar severity.

Workers in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin achieved better return-to-work outcomes than in the other states studied. Ninety-five percent of workers in Wisconsin and 93 percent of workers in Pennsylvania indicated that they returned to work for at least one full month during the 3½ years after their injury.

The study found high levels of satisfaction with health care regardless of who selects the provider. Seventy-three to 87 percent of workers reported that they were somewhat or very satisfied with the overall medical care they received. However, the percentage of workers reporting that they were somewhat or very satisfied with their providers was consistently higher when workers selected the provider than when their employers or insurers selected their providers—regardless of what the state law authorizes about choice of provider.

The overwhelming majority of workers in all seven states reported that they were able to obtain access to the providers and services they desired and were able to get their first appointments with both their initial and primary providers in a timely manner. However, some workers did report experiencing big problems getting access to the providers or services they desired—4 to 26 percent of workers, depending on the question asked.

Comparing Outcomes for Injured Workers in Seven Large States. Sharon E. Fox, Richard A. Victor, and Te-Chun Liu, with the assistance of Pinghui Li. January 2006. WC-06-01.

Copyright: WCRI

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