There are a number of important trends in Workers Compensation that could impact injured workers in 2017.
Some trends are related to increasing healthcare costs that raise the cost per claim. This puts upward pressure on the premiums that employers must pay to maintain their required workers comp insurance. According to one post, a commercial broker for a New York workers comp insurer said that companies with more than 100 employees appear to be particularly hard hit with premium increases. In some cases, workers comp costs have significantly reduced company profits.
As companies scramble to limit workers comp costs in every way possible, employees may suffer. Employers attempt to limit costs while injured workers seek fair compensation for their injuries and work-related illnesses.
Here are some workers compensation trends worth noting for the year to come:
Safer Work Environment – For 2017, a continued trend toward promoting safety at work will continue. Given the increasing costs of claims, employers are highly motivated to promote safety to protect profits. Those that were historically reckless about employee safety often learn the hard way when they experience dramatic increases in workers comp premiums. Ultimately, a culture of safety makes a difference, with increased worker morale an important side benefit.
Growth of Telemedicine – Workers on night shifts and weekend hours may not always be able to access a clinic immediately. Having an opportunity to reach a telemedicine physician via a smart phone or tablet addresses workers’ medical needs with more immediacy.
Increased Time Off of Work – In 2014, the most recent year for which annualized data is available, U.S. employees spent more than 1.1 million full-time equivalent of days recovering from a workplace illness or injury. Increases in time off from work led to insurance premium increases of approximately five to seven percent in 2015, with some employers seeing double-digit increases in their workers comp insurance premiums.
Impact of Aging Workforce – As the overall age of the American workforce increases, there is an impact on Worker’s Compensation claims. Older workers are often injured at a higher rate than their younger counterparts and recovery may take longer.
Prescription Drug Expenses – As pharmaceutical companies continue to develop and bring to market new medications, they often, with at a high cost. Overall, however, prescription drug expenses in workers comp claims are actually decreasing. Medications are better managed. Injured workers are not over-prescribed as frequently as they once were. Over-prescribing medication, especially painkillers, can adversely impact employer and employee alike. Carelessly prescribed medications may even lead to addiction which may lead to additional Worker’s Compensation claims and more time away from work.
Rise of Occupational Medicine Clinics – Although the practice of employers directing employees to particular medical clinics is not always in the interests of the worker, there are situations where a “soft medical referral” can benefit all parties. Certain occupational medicine clinics are more capable of developing highly focused treatment programs which may better promote healing and facilitate a speedier return to work.
Communication During Extended Absences – Given the fact that approximately five percent of workers comp claims generate approximately 80 percent of the expenses, it is incumbent upon employers to communicate well with workers during extended absences. Some assert that an employer that checks in occasionally with a worker during an extended absence is beneficial for a worker’s state-of-mind. Employees remaining at home for extended periods may demonstrate an increased risk of depression or later re-injury.
Again, some of these trends threaten to undermine the fair treatment that workers deserve. Our firm fights hard to preserve the rights of workers injured on the job.
If you or a family member suffers a work-related injury or illness, we make it possible for you to speak with a workers comp attorney free of charge. To ask your questions, or to learn more about our legal services, please contact us.