A new study by the Cambridge, Mass. based Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) shows that Texas has major deficiencies in the amount of benefit payments and the overutilization of insurance carriers on cost containment efforts.
Medical costs per workers’ compensation claim in Texas were stable in 2007, following several years of dramatic decreases. However, in several key areas Texas showed key areas of poor performance in workers compensation, according to a new study by WCRI.
The study, Monitoring the Impact of Reforms in Texas: CompScope™ Benchmarks, 10th Edition, said that afte 2006, Texas medical costs per claim were 19 percent lower than the typical study state for claims with more than seven days of lost time. Fee schedule decreases combined with increased management of medical care by payors through utilization review and other means were behind the decline.
At the same time, though, WCRI reported that medical cost containment expenses per claim continued to grow rapidly in Texas, even after medical costs began to decline. At an average of $2,818, Texas had the highest medical cost containment expenses per claim among the study states in 2007/2008, 37 percent higher than typical. This means that even though the state legislature enacted reforms to contain costs, insurance carriers were aggressively seeking to reduce legitimate costs even further.
The study noted that indemnity benefits per claim rose ten percent in 2007, largely due to a nearly 25 percent increase in the maximum benefit for statutory weekly temporary total disability. But, despite this significant increase in the maximum benefit, the percentage of workers whose benefits were limited by the maximum was 17 percent, more than double the percentage in the typical study state. Thus, Texas lags far behind other states in calculating the maximum benefit paid under workers comp.
The study also found that from 2002 to 2006 indemnity benefits per claim decreased 9 percent overall, largely the result of a decrease in the duration of temporary disability. Since 2002, WCRI said the average duration of temporary disability for injured workers in Texas declined by more than three weeks for claims at an average of 36 months of experience, likely related to the decrease in medical utilization under HB 2600 and payor focus on managing medical care.
In addition, the study said Texas had lower permanent partial disability/lump-sum payments compared to the typical study state.
The Workers Compensation Research Institute is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization conducting public policy research on workers’ compensation, health care, and disability issues. Its members include employers, insurers, governmental entities, insurance regulators and state administrative agencies in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as several state labor organizations.