WCRI Report: Despite Differences In State Laws, Outcomes Remain Similar

06 Feb, 2020 Bruce Burk


Cambridge, MA (WorkersCompensation.com) – A survey of injured workers in four states found that most states are in alignment with one another in terms of workers’ compensation results.  A series of reports released by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), showed that injured workers in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida and Georgia view the medical care they received after an on-the-job injury similarly.

Those surveys, combined with other workers surveys in Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin, looked at various aspects of care including earnings, satisfaction of care, work time lost in recovery and getting the providers or services that they need.

But the studies show that despite changes in the states’ systems, there has been little change.

“First, the study allows policy makers to compare outcomes in their states with those observed in other states. Policymakers can compare results in their states with those found in other states (perhaps neighboring states) or the 15-state median,” said Dr. Bogdan Savych, the author of the studies. “Second, despite differences in underlying workers’ compensation system features, we found relatively small differences in important outcomes across states.”

In general, a small portion of workers continued to report earning “a lot less” during their recovery. In Arkansas, only 8 percent of workers reported earning a lot less. Across all 15 states, the percentage of workers reporting lower earnings was between 6 and 9 percent.

And within the four states, Connecticut workers were more satisfied with the care they received. In that state, 83 percent of survey respondents said they were satisfied with their care, the highest percentage of all 15 states. Indiana ranked lowest with 74 percent. Within the other three states surveyed, Florida ranked lowest with 75 percent. In both Georgia and Arkansas, 76 percent of injured workers surveyed said they were satisfied with their care.

In Georgia, nearly 20 percent of injured workers reported having “big problems” getting access to the services that they or their provider wanted. Only 17 percent said they had problems getting access to the primary provider that they wanted. Those results were similar to the rest of the states where the median result was 17 percent of injured workers had problems getting access to services and providers. But across that percentage there was wide variation from state to state. In Wisconsin, only 9 percent said they had “big problems” getting access to primary providers, while in North Carolina, 21 percent indicated they had problems.

Savych said the reasons for the problems varied.

“We have asked workers to state reasons why they reported ‘big problems’ getting desired medical services,” he said. “Three most common groups of responses that workers provided were as follows: ‘employer or insurer did not want the care provided,’ ‘medical professional was not willing to give the care,’ and ‘there was difficulty in diagnosing the condition.’”

States also varied on the amount of time off to recover, as well.

In Florida, the median time off to recover from a work injury was 7 weeks, while in Pennsylvania, the media time off was 12 weeks. And in Florida, 16 percent of injured workers said they never returned to work, compared to a high of 18 percent in Pennsylvania and a low of 9 percent in Indiana.

Savych said the survey did not analyze why there were discrepancies in the amount of time off work.

“In our analysis, we did not examine reasons for differences in the length of time off work between states,” he said. “Since we control for underlying characteristics of workers, their injures and workplace environment, the difference in rates and speed of return to work across states may reflect differences in state-specific policies.” 


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    About The Author

    • Bruce Burk

      Bruce Burk is an experienced workers' compensation defense attorney located in South Florida. He has also worked in civil litigation and criminal defense, handling more than 40 trials, both jury and non-jury. Burk received his law degree from the University of South Carolina and his bachelor's degree from Palm Beach Atlantic University.

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