Excess healthcare costs associated with prior workers' compensation activity

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BackgroundWorkers compensation (WC) does not fully compensate workplace injuries and illnesses. This work examines whether cost shifting occurs to group health insurance for work-related injuries and illnesses.MethodsThomson Reuters MarketScan databases of medical insurance claims were used. WC and other benefit system data, employee status and types of medical insurance coverage were also available. Medical cost was analyzed using two-part models: the first part modeled the monthly probability of a worker having any group health medical claims, and the second part modeled the total monthly cost of those medical claims. Models included an estimate of a worker's annual medical costs prior to a WC claim. The predicted monthly medical costs were derived by retransformation using Duan's smearing factor.ResultsIndividuals with prior WC claims were more likely to file a group health medical claim compared to those with no prior WC claims (OR = 1.25) and incurred a higher average monthly medical costs (among nonunion hourly men aged 18–34 years with prior WC claims: $203.72 vs. $160.29 with no prior claim, an increase of $43). These increases were observed in all industrial sectors with the service sector having the highest monthly increase ($66).DiscussionThe results reveal that individuals with prior WC claims had higher probability of filing a group health medical claim and higher average monthly medical costs in all sectors. This suggests that a part of employer liability costs related to WC gets shifted to the group health medical insurance system. Am. J. Ind. Med. 55:1018–1027, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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