Originally posted September 30, 2013 by Nancy Grover on http://www.riskandinsurance.com
Benefits paid to injured workers and costs for employers in the workers’ comp system seem to be following the economic environment. A new report shows the increases corresponded to an improving economy.
The National Academy of Social Insurance reports employer costs overall rose 7.1 percent while benefits paid to injured workers increased 3.5 percent in 2011. However, when measured as a share of covered wages, benefits remained unchanged at $1 per $100 of covered wages while employers’ costs increased to $1.27 per $100 after declining in the previous five years.
The data is included in Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage, and Costs, 2011, NASI’s 16th annual national data showing medical and cash payments for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and federal programs that provide workers’ comp.
“Despite the uptick in 2011, employers’ costs for workers’ compensation expressed as a share of covered wages were lower in the last three years than at any time over the last three decades,” the report says. “Employer costs peaked in the early 1990s (at $2.18 per $100 covered wages), declined sharply to a low of $1.34 per $100 covered wages in 2000, increased between 2000 and 2005, and then declined in recent years to a low of $1.24 per $100 covered wages in 2010.”
Employers’ costs of workers’ comp per $100 of covered payroll increased in 35 jurisdictions and declined in 16, the report explains. The total benefits paid increased in 29 jurisdictions and decreased in 22.
The benefits paid to injured workers in 2011 included $29.9 billion for medical costs — up 4.5 percent from 2010, and cash benefits of $30.3 billion, an increase of 2.6 percent. The share of benefits paid for medical care exceeded 50 percent in 33 states and ranged from a high of 73.2 percent in Indiana to a low of 32.4 percent in Washington.
“Historically, as a share of covered wages, cash benefits to injured workers have exceeded medical payments to providers by ratios as high as 1.4 to 1, but over the last 20 years the trend lines have converged,” the report says. “As a share of covered wages medical payments and cash benefits have been almost identical over the last four years (2008-2011). In 2011, cash benefits ($0.50 per $100 of covered wages) had fallen almost 50 percent from their 1991 peak ($0.99 per $100 of wages) while medical benefits ($0.49 per $100 of covered wages) were 29 percent lower than their 1992 peak ($0.69 per $100 of wages).”
All jurisdictions showed increases in the numbers of covered workers and the dollars of covered wages, according to the report. Workers’ comp covered 125.8 million workers in 2011 — an increase of 1.1 percent. Aggregate wages of covered workers increased by 3.9 percent.