The good folks at Business Insurance magazine, wrote a post last week about how the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare” may actually lower workers’ comp medical costs.
The author of the article quotes from the abstract of the study.
“Although it is widely recognized that health care reform has the potential to affect the volume and cost of medical care received through the workers’ compensation (WC) system, to date there is little empirical evidence of this effect,” the abstract says. “This study used the experience of Massachusetts, which implemented a health care reform package with several provisions similar to those in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, to empirically estimate how health reform impacts WC hospital care. It was found that WC billing frequency for both emergency room visits and inpatient hospitalizations fell by 5 to 10 percent as a result of reform, but that billed charges and treatment volume were not measurably affected. These impacts were observable among patients with more costly injuries and persisted even after various approaches were used to account for the effects of the economic downturn that began at the end of 2007. While many outstanding questions about the impacts of health reform on WC remain, this early quantitative, empirical evidence suggests that reform may reduce medical costs borne by the WC system.”
If this is true, and there is a long way to go before there is definitive proof of this, it would mean that implementing medical tourism into workers’ compensation would be considerably more difficult to achieve. Yet, the study does suggest, as the abstract states, that billed charges did not change in Massachusetts.
One state out of fifty does not mean that costs in other states will do the same. Much of what people in the work comp industry have said about the ACA and its’ impact on work comp range from none at all, to complete federalization, so at this stage, it is too early to tell if there will be any cause for alarm among those wishing to implement medical tourism into workers’ comp.