This report, now in its 23rd year, provides consistent data for researchers and others to use for contextualizing the impact of the pandemic in 2020. According to Les Boden, Chair of the Data Panel for this report and professor of public health at Boston University: “The current worldwide pandemic has reinforced the importance of social insurance systems like unemployment insurance and workers' compensation. We have also witnessed the spread of COVID-19 through workplaces as different as healthcare and meatpacking. Although this publication reports on a pre-pandemic world, it can provide context for thinking about the role of workers' compensation systems as the world changes around us.”
Key trends in this five-year study period largely mirror those of reports from the past few years. Both total benefits for workers and standardized benefits (benefits per $100 of covered wages) continued to decline, with the latter falling in every state but Hawaii. Over the study period, standardized benefits fell by $0.16 to $0.77 per $100 in covered wages, as did standardized employer costs, bringing them down to $1.21 per $100 in covered wages. Coverage continued to increase, with the only state exceptions being North Dakota and Wyoming.
This year's report features two major enhancements: (1) expanded discussions of the definition of workers' compensation in the United States, and a corresponding exploration of which programs should be included in our data; and (2) a broader exploration in the Addendum of other social insurance and safety-net programs that complement workers' compensation's income and health projection for injured, ill, and disabled workers. The latter is particularly relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has revealed the precarity of workplace situations for many front-line and “essential” workers, in particular. Study Panel member Terry Bogyo, who helped expand the Addendum, notes:
“Workers' compensation is the most important source of income-loss, safety and health protection for workers but it does not stand alone. Other provisions and social insurance programs complete a broader ecosystem of support, maximizing the breadth of financial protections for injured or ill workers. In this year's report, we highlight several of these alternatives with their strengths and limitations in an expanded Addendum and new table. This additional explanation is particularly timely; workers' health, safety and financial risks are elevated because of COVID-19. Now, more than ever, workers need the protection of workers' compensation and this range of other programs to diminish the financial and human loss of work-related injury and disability.”
Drawing on data from surveys of workers' compensation agencies from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as from A.M. Best and the National Council on Compensation Insurance, this is the only report of its kind available for researchers and students, state and federal agencies, workers' rights and employer advocates, and others.