WCRI’s Annual Review of the Industry: See the Workers’ Comp Trends Taking Center Stage

An annual session at WCRI’s Issues and Research Conference examined indemnity, short-term disability and benefits payment trends across states.
By: | March 18, 2022

WCRI’s Annual Issues and Research Conference was back in-person for 2022 and returning along with it was its popular State of the States: Selected Findings presentation.

This annual conference session highlights the latest trends as seen in WCRI’s core benchmarking studies. These studies examine individual state systems in order to provide meaningful interstate comparisons. 

This year, WCRI policy analysts chose to highlight two different types of data from the report. Up first, they discussed findings across various state workers’ compensation systems. 

Then, they dove into the state of New York’s findings specifically, as they saw a major fee schedule change in 2019. 

The State of the States: Research Findings

Dr. Rebecca Yang, senior public policy analyst with WCRI, kicked off the session by detailing how the pandemic affected workers’ comp benefits across various systems. 

“Our analysis focused on non COVID-19 claims with dates of injury both before and after March 2020 … [and those] through early 2021,” Yang said. 

Using preliminary data from WCRI’s CompScope™ Benchmarks, 22nd Edition, Yang delved into the trends she’s seeing in the industry. Here were some of the findings:

  • Of the states studied, only four saw indemnity benefits increase by less than 3% per year for the period between 2019/2020-2020/2021.
  • Only Indiana saw a decrease in indemnity costs of 2.7%.
  • Minnesota saw the highest increase in indemnity costs during this period — jumping 18%. 
  • Every state studied also experienced an increase in the duration of temporary disability in 2020.
  • Increases in temporary disability duration ranged from one percent in Louisiana to 11% in Wisconsin.  
  • Prior to the period from 2019-2020, temporary disability duration was decreasing in five states: North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Pennsylvania and California. 

Yang attributed the increases in temporary disability duration to care delays caused by the pandemic, concerns over the virus and a lack of childcare that caused people to delay returning to work and other pandemic-related factors. 

Key Metrics from New York

In the second half of the session WCRI policy analyst William Monnin-Browder shared key metrics from New York, using data from 2019.

New York went through a fee schedule change in 2019, which had a substantial affect on prices in its workers’ comp system.

“We found that when we compare the New York prices paid to other study states, New York moved closer to the middle of the study states after the fee schedule change,” Monnin-Browder said. 

Here’s some of the data Monnin-Browder shared:

  • Medical payments per claim increased nine percent in New York in 2019.
  • These increases are likely due to the fee schedule change enacted on April 1, 2019. Prior to that, New York had not had a significant fee schedule change since 1996.
  • Despite these increases, New York’s professional services costs were eight percent lower than the median state in WCRI’s 2020 study. 

In addition, the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board began a payer compliance project in 2015.

This project increased the monitoring of when injuries are first reported, when initial workers’ compensation payments are made and other additional measures. 

This has led to an increase in the percentage of injured workers in the state who receive their first indemnity payment within 21 days of injury since 2014.

For 2019/2020, 46% of workers received indemnity payments within 21 days, this is close to the median state rate of 47%. &

Courtney DuChene is a freelance journalist based in Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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