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Workers’ Compensation Coverage Increases But Benefits Decline Nationally, New Study Shows

For Immediate Release: October 31, 2019

Contact: Meghan Griffin, 202-243-7286 

Benefits paid to injured workers continued to decline, while covered employment and wages continued to rise, according to data in the new Workers’ Compensation Benefits, Costs, and Coverage (2017 Data) report. Produced annually by the National Academy of Social Insurance (Academy), this report provides the only comprehensive data on workers’ compensation benefits, coverage, and employer costs for the nation, the states, the District of Columbia, and federal programs. 


Employee coverage has increased fairly steadily over the past two decades, but employer costs have fallen from just over $1.50 per $100 of covered wages in 1997 to $1.25 in 2017. Worker benefits decreased even more, from $1.17 twenty years ago to $0.80 per $100 of covered wages in 2017. “This year’s report shows that the trends that have dominated the workers’ compensation system for the past three decades – declines in both workers’ benefits and employers’ costs – continue to be sustained,” noted Les Boden, Chair of the Academy Study Panel on Workers’ Compensation Data and co-author of the report. 


“To the extent that costs and benefits have fallen because of improved safety at work, that is, of course, good news. However, there is also evidence that suggests that many injured workers are not receiving the cash benefits and/or medical care they need, and that some states are achieving lower benefits by shifting costs rather than improving safety. We hope policymakers, reporters, researchers, and others continue to delve into these issues and advance policies that help workers and employers achieve a balance that improves outcomes for both,” said Boden.


In addition to the full report, including sources and methods, an Executive Summary and four state-specific spotlights on Wyoming, Florida, Ohio, and Missouri are available for download. “The report, together with the companion ‘State Spotlights’ on a few states experiencing unusual trends, shines much-needed light on what is working well and not so well in this critical component of our nation’s social insurance infrastructure,” commented Academy CEO William Arnone. 


Additional highlights:


  • Covered jobs increased in all jurisdictions except Alaska, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Covered wages increased in all jurisdictions except Wyoming.
  • Benefits per $100 of covered wages decreased in all jurisdictions except Missouri and Hawaii, where they increased by $0.09 and $0.04, respectively. 
  • Costs per $100 of covered wages, or standardized costs, decreased in all but five jurisdictions, with the largest percent decrease (38.3 percent) in Oklahoma.

 


Experts to contact: 

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Elaine Weiss
National Academy of Social Insurance
202-243-7280
eweiss@nasi.org

Les Boden
Boston University School of Public Health
617-358-2651
lboden@bu.edu


Elaine Weiss National Academy of Social Insurance 202-243-7280            eweiss@nasi.org Les Boden


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Since its founding in 1986, the National Academy of Social Insurance has provided rigorous inquiry and insights into the functioning of our nation’s social insurance programs – Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, and Workers’ Compensation. Comprised of over 1,000 of the nation’s top experts in social insurance and related policies and programs, the Academy studies how social insurance can continue to meet the changing needs of American families, employees, and employers, including new frontiers for social insurance. To learn more about the Academy’s work, please visit www.nasi.org, or follow @socialinsurance on Twitter.

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