Workers' Compensation in California and in the Nation: Benefit and Employer Cost Trends, 1989 – 2005

By: Ishita Sengupta, Virginia Reno, Christine Baker and Lachlan Taylor
Published: April 2008
Workers' Compensation Brief ~ April 2008

The National Academy of Social Insurance, in collaboration with the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation, produced a special data brief for the State of California. California’s workers’ compensation system has been the center of intense debate and legislative activity over the past several years. The dramatic reforms of California workers’ compensation in 2003-2004 sought to reduce utilization of medical care through evidence-based medical treatment guidelines and the creation of a system of medical provider networks, establish time limits on temporary disability benefits, establish a more objective permanent disability schedule, and provide for transparent fee schedules for out-patient surgery centers, hospitals, and pharmaceuticals. This brief compares experience in California with the rest of the nation from 1989 through 2005 – a time of rapid change in workers’ compensation spending nationwide and in California, in particular. It examines trends in benefits and employer costs through 2005, the latest year for which complete national data are available.