Category Archives: WCRI

Large Variations in Payments for Hospital Outpatient Care to Injured Workers

Back in April of this year, I wrote about a study by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) in which it was found that fee schedules may increase the number of workers’ comp claims.

Today, the WCRI released a new study that said that “hospital outpatient payments per surgical episode varied significantly across states, ranging from 69 percent below the study-state median in New York to 142 percent above the study-state median in Alabama in 2014,” according to Dr. Olesya Fomenko, co-author of the study and economist at WCRI, and who also is mentioned in my previous post.

The report also stated that “variation in the difference between average workers’ compensation payments and Medicare rates for a common group of procedures across states was even greater—reaching as low as 27 percent (or $631) below Medicare in New York and as much as 430 percent (or $8,244) above Medicare in Louisiana.”

Here are the major findings:

  • States with no workers’ compensation fee schedules for hospital outpatient reimbursement had higher hospital outpatient payments per episode compared with states with fixed-amount fee schedules—63 to 150 percent higher than the median of the study states with fixed-amount fee schedules. Also, in non-fee schedule states, workers’ compensation paid between $4,262 (or 166 percent) and $8,107 (or 378 percent) more than Medicare for similar hospital outpatient services.
  • States with percent-of-charge-based fee regulations had substantially higher hospital outpatient payments per surgical episode than states with fixed-amount fee schedules—32 to 211 percent higher than the median of the study states with fixed-amount fee schedules. Similar to non-fee schedule states, workers’ compensation payments in states with percent-of-change based fee regulations for common surgical procedures were at least $3,792 (or 190 percent) and as much as $8,244 (or 430 percent) higher than Medicare hospital outpatient rates.
  • Most states with fixed-amount fee schedules and states with cost-to-charge ratio fee regulations had relatively lower payments per episode among the study states. In particular, for states with fixed-amount fee schedules, the difference between workers’ compensation payments and Medicare rates ranged between negative 27 percent (or -$631) and 144 percent (or $2,916).

Still think that workers’ comp is doing okay? Still think that keeping the status quo is the best option for injured workers? Still think that thinking outside the box, and considering alternatives to the ever increasing cost of medical care for workers’ comp is stupid, ridiculous and a non-starter?

Or do you believe, as Joe Paduda wrote about today in his blog, that workers’ comp is no longer needed for 90% of America’s employees, as the workplace has become safer than the non-occ environment.

The idea brought forth, and as Joe said, it is an intriguing, but wrong one, is that the medical care can be provided under health insurance, and the disability coverage can be added to long-term or short-term disability insurance.

Whichever way you look at the issue, workers’ comp is not going away, but it is getting more expensive to pay for medical care. The problem here is, too many Americans are slavishly wedded to outmoded ways of thinking, outmoded economic policies and models, as well as an outmoded economic ideology, to think rationally and seriously about alternatives.

Lastly, there are too many cooks (or should that be crooks) with their hands in the pot who have a vested interest in keeping things the way they are. If that is so, then the WCRI is only telling us what we should already know…injured workers are screwed and so are the carriers and employers. As long as outside interests have a hand in the system, and those who profit from higher costs block real change, this situation will only get worse.

I am sure glad it is not my money being wasted like this.

As always, to purchase the study click this link:

http://www.wcrinet.org/studies/public/books/hci_5_book.html

 

Florida Workers’ Comp Outcomes Similar to 14 Other States

Introduction

Earlier this week, the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), released a study that compared the outcomes for injured workers across 15 states. It can be purchased here.

Each state has a separate, multi-page report, so I requested a copy of the report for Florida, as that is where I currently reside (offers of employment elsewhere are greatly appreciated).

As this report has over 100 pages, it is reasonable to assume that 15 such reports would have a combined 1500 pages or more. So, I took the easy way and just looked at one state.

In the introduction to the report, there are two key dimensions of the performance of any workers’ comp system in the US:

  1. Post-injury outcomes achieved by injured workers and;
  2. Costs paid by employers.

The study measured the following worker outcomes:

  • Recovery of physical health and functioning
  • Return to work
  • Earnings recovery
  • Access to medical care
  • Satisfaction with medical care

The study was also conducted in three phases:

  • Phase 1: Eight states (IN, MA, MI, MN, NC, PA, VA, WI)
  • Phase 2: Four states: (IA, AR, CT, TN)
  • Phase 3: Three states: (FL, GA, KY)

The WCRI will collect data from other states and revisit states from earlier phases that implemented reforms to measure the impact of those reforms on outcomes in subsequent phases.

Key Findings for Florida

The WCRI found that workers in Florida reported outcomes that were similar to the median study on some of the key measures, but they reported somewhat higher rates of problems accessing desired services, accessing desired providers, and higher dissatisfaction with overall medical care.

For Recovery of physical health and functioning, they found that for Florida, it was similar to the other 14 states.

For Return to work, injured workers in Florida reported rates of return to work in the middle range of the study. 14% of Florida workers with more than seven days of lost time reported never having a return to work that lasted at least one month due to the injury as of three years’ post-injury; 17% reported no return to work within one year of injury. The median worker in Florida had a return to work about 12 weeks after injury.

For Earnings Recovery, 11% of Florida injured workers reported earning “a lot less” at the time of return to work; the median was 8%.

For Access to care, 21% of Florida injured workers reported they had “big problems” getting the services they or their provider wanted; 20% reported “big problems” getting the primary provider they wanted. Florida was among the states, the study reported, with higher rates of problems of access to care and providers, and higher or somewhat higher than in nine or eight other states.

For Satisfaction with care, the study found nearly three in four Florida workers were “somewhat” or “very” satisfied with their overall care (71%); however, 20% said they were “very dissatisfied”. This was higher than the median of the states, and higher than in 10 states.

Table 1 is a comparison of the medical costs and outcomes between Florida and the other 14 states in the WCRI study. What is interesting to note is that when compared to the other 14 states, Florida had similar outcomes in many of the measures, as the study suggested.

Table 1

Source: WCRI

The study found that medical costs in Florida, recovery of health and functioning, rates of return to work, duration of time before return to work were typical, while problems with getting desired services, and providers were somewhat higher or higher. Satisfaction was lower, but dissatisfaction was higher.

What I found interesting, and perhaps a little disturbing, but not unexpected, was that with the exception of the percentage of satisfaction, all the figures were below 50%, and while the score mechanism for recovery of health and functioning is not further discussed in the Summary, but is mentioned in the notes, those also seem to be very low.

I am not surprised that Florida has a higher percentage of dissatisfaction with medical care, this despite the fact that everywhere you look in Florida cities and towns, there are hundreds of medical offices, clinics, and many hospitals; some large, some small.

What to make of this?

While it is too early to tell how these 15 states compare with the other 35 states, what we can gather from this data is that the workers’ comp systems in these states are falling far short of where they should be in almost all of the measures.

Satisfaction percentages, notwithstanding, there are real issues with the way injured workers are treated in these 15 states.

That Florida is similar to 14 other states in five outcome measures, and not even above 50%, tells me that the industry needs to stop kidding itself that everything is honky-dory. It’s not.

How worse do you think it would be if the only current alternative being suggested is the opt-out option? If workers are not getting back to work or getting better care or better health and functioning under the current state systems, how do you think it would be if states like FL, GA, KY, NC, TN and VA go to opt-out as ARAWC is trying to do?

And without going into the details of each states report, it is hard to know just how much of these outcomes are related to common workers’ comp surgeries that could be provided for by outside medical facilities in other nations in the Western hemisphere?

Denying injured workers, the access to the services and providers they want or need is not a sign that everything is okay, having long-delayed return to work three years after injury is not okay, and earning less after an injury is also not okay.

WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO WAKE UP OUT OF YOUR DREAMSTATES AND REALIZE THERE ARE MAJOR PROBLEMS HERE THAT ARE NOT BEING SOLVED?

WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO STOP LISTENING TO PEOPLE WHO DO NOT WANT TO IMPROVE THE SYSTEM BECAUSE IT ONLY SERVES TO MAKE THEM WEALTHIER OR SOMEONE ELSE WEALTHIER?

WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO REALIZE THAT AMERICAN PHYSICIANS ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES WHO CAN PRACTICE MEDICINE, AND MAY EVEN BE BETTER THAN THOSE HERE WHO ARE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY?

No matter how many studies or reports the WCRI or NCCI, or anyone else issues, until you disavow yourselves of the notion that workers’ compensation is failing and that there are ways to fix it, it will just get worse, until one day it is no longer here for anyone.


I am willing to work with any broker, carrier, or employer interested in saving money on expensive surgeries, and to provide the best care for their injured workers or their client’s employees.

Ask me any questions you may have on how to save money on expensive surgeries under workers’ comp.

I am also looking for a partner who shares my vision of global health care for injured workers.

I am also willing to work with any health care provider, medical tourism facilitator or facility to help you take advantage of a market segment treating workers injured on the job. Workers’ compensation is going through dramatic changes, and may one day be folded into general health care. Injured workers needing surgery for compensable injuries will need to seek alternatives that provide quality medical care at lower cost to their employers. Caribbean and Latin America region preferred.

Call me for more information, next steps, or connection strategies at (561) 738-0458 or (561) 603-1685, cell. Email me at: richard_krasner@hotmail.com.

Will accept invitations to speak or attend conferences.

Connect with me on LinkedIn, check out my website, FutureComp Consulting, and follow my blog at: richardkrasner.wordpress.com.

Transforming Workers’ Comp Blog is now viewed all over the world in over 250 countries and political entities. I have published nearly 300 articles, many of them re-published in newsletters and other blogs.

Share this article, or leave a comment below.

Follow-up to Employee/Employer Choice: Three Years Later

Not that long ago, Michael Grabell of ProPublica, and Howard Berkes of NPR, published a report called “The Demolition of Workers’ Compensation”.

There was much industry condemnation about the report, and my fellow blogger, Joe Paduda, tried to set the record straight, but got nowhere.

I managed to write to Michael and corrected him on the issue of choice of treating physician, which I covered in these two articles: “Employee vs Employer Choice of Physician: How best to Incorporate Medical Tourism into Workers’ Compensation” and “Employee vs. Employer Choice of Physician Revisited: Additional Commentary on How Best to Incorporate Medical Tourism into Workers’ Compensation“.

I sent Michael all of my research and I think he was convinced that employees had more choice, it was just a matter of what options they had, given each state’s workers’ comp laws.

One of the sources I used back then, and today was a joint publication between the WCRI and the IAIABC,”Workers’ Compensation Laws As of January 1, 2016”, which can be purchased here.

Here is my version of their Table 3:

pic10

Notes: * Employee may seek reasonable care on his or her own at employer’s expense
** Can allow worker to select then other party may choose to direct it for next 60 days
*** Employee for non-network claims, any willing provider; network claims, from list by network
**** Employer may have on-site medical provider that employees must see first, then employee can select

But as you will notice, the far left column has the most number of states where the employees can choose their treating physicians, although some do have certain circumstances where the employer has the choice, or there are conditions that must be met.

Relying on the US Chamber of Commerce, as Michael told me he did, does not get you the right data. Using the statutes and laws themselves is the only way to know what is permitted and what is not permitted. And the employee for the most part, does have a say in his or her care.


I am willing to work with any broker, carrier, or employer interested in saving money on expensive surgeries, and to provide the best care for their injured workers or their client’s employees.

Ask me any questions you may have on how to save money on expensive surgeries under workers’ comp.

I am also looking for a partner who shares my vision of global health care for injured workers.

I am also willing to work with any health care provider, medical tourism facilitator or facility to help you take advantage of a market segment treating workers injured on the job. Workers’ compensation is going through dramatic changes, and may one day be folded into general health care. Injured workers needing surgery for compensable injuries will need to seek alternatives that provide quality medical care at lower cost to their employers. Caribbean and Latin America region preferred.

Call me for more information, next steps, or connection strategies at (561) 738-0458 or (561) 603-1685, cell. Email me at: richard_krasner@hotmail.com.

Will accept invitations to speak or attend conferences.

Connect with me on LinkedIn, check out my website, FutureComp Consulting, and follow my blog at: richardkrasner.wordpress.com.

Transforming Workers’ Blog is now viewed all over the world in 250 countries and political entities. I have published nearly 300 articles, many of them re-published in newsletters and other blogs.

Share this article, or leave a comment below.

“Florida, We Have a Problem”

Tuesday, Judge David Langham, Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims for the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims and Division of Administrative Hearings, wrote a rather lengthy post about the differences between cost-shifting and case-shifting in workers’ comp.

Much of what the Judge wrote were subjects that I already discussed in a number of previous posts about cost-shifting and case-shifting, so I won’t go into it here. I am only focusing on the parts that relate to Florida workers’ comp. You can read the entire article yourselves.

But what caught my attention was what he said about Florida and what the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) reported in some of their studies on these issues.

As Judge Langham wrote this week, he wrote a post two years ago that asked the question “Why Does Surgery Cost Double in Workers’ Compensation?”

Judge Langham noted in that post that Florida employers have been documented paying almost double for shoulder or knee surgery that is paid for under workers’ compensation, compared to group health costs.

The implication of case-shifting in Florida, he says, could arguably be a doubling of cost.

He cited a WCRI report released earlier this year that suggests however that case-shifting is perhaps not as likely in Florida.

According to the report, Judge Langham continues, “as of July 2011, six states had workers’ comp medical fee schedules with rates within 15% of Medicare rates. They were California, Massachusetts, Florida, North Carolina, New York and Hawaii.”

However, Judge Langham pointed out that the WCRI concluded that case-shifting is more likely in states where the workers’ compensation fee schedule is 20% or more above the group health rates, and not in Florida.

Judge Langham stated that this analysis of workers’ compensation fee schedules does not appear to include analysis of the reimbursement rates for hospitals, and that It also seems contradictory to the assertions that Florida workers’ compensation costs for various surgeries have been documented as roughly double the group health rates (100% higher, not 15% higher).

Injured workers who missed work in the Florida workers’ compensation system could be compensated in 2016 at a rate as high as $862.51 per week, the “maximum compensation rate.”

So, if recovery from such a “soft-tissue” injury required ten weeks off-work, he wrote, the case-shifting to workers’ compensation might add another four to nine thousand dollars to the already doubled cost of surgical repair under workers’ compensation.

This could be directly borne by the employer if the employer is self-insured for workers’ compensation; or, if the employer has purchased workers’ compensation insurance, the effect on the employer would be indirect in the form of potentially increased premium costs for workers’ compensation following such events and payments, Judge Langham states.

According to WCRI, the Judge quotes, “policymakers have always focused on the impact (workers’ compensation) fee schedules have on access to care as well as utilization of services.

This has been a two-part analysis, he says:

First, fee schedules have to be sufficient such that physicians are willing to provide care in the workers’ compensation system; and second, the reimbursement cannot be too high, or perhaps overutilization is encouraged.

Lastly, Judge Langham points out that the disparity between costs has also been noted in discussions of “medical tourism.”

The last question he posits is this, “might medical decision makers direct care to more efficient providers, across town, across state lines?”

What about national borders?


I am willing to work with any broker, carrier, or employer interested in saving money on expensive surgeries, and to provide the best care for their injured workers or their client’s employees.

Ask me any questions you may have on how to save money on expensive surgeries under workers’ comp.

I am also looking for a partner who shares my vision of global health care for injured workers.

I am also willing to work with any health care provider, medical tourism facilitator or facility to help you take advantage of a market segment treating workers injured on the job. Workers’ compensation is going through dramatic changes, and may one day be folded into general health care. Injured workers needing surgery for compensable injuries will need to seek alternatives that provide quality medical care at lower cost to their employers. Caribbean and Latin America region preferred.

Call me for more information, next steps, or connection strategies at (561) 738-0458 or (561) 603-1685, cell. Email me at: richard_krasner@hotmail.com.

Will accept invitations to speak or attend conferences.

Connect with me on LinkedIn, check out my website, FutureComp Consulting, and follow my blog at: richardkrasner.wordpress.com.

Transforming Workers’ Blog is now viewed all over the world in 250 countries and political entities. I have published nearly 300 articles, many of them re-published in newsletters and other blogs.

Share this article, or leave a comment below.

Fee Schedules May Increase Number of Work Comp Claims

The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) published a new study that examined whether fee schedules increase the number of workers’ compensation claims.

In previous reports, the WCRI found that in many states, workers’ compensation pays higher prices than group health.

Another study they issued, found that in some states, workers’ compensation prices were two to four times higher than group health prices.

Moreover, in most states, WCRI found, the workers’ compensation systems rely heavily on the treating physician to determine whether a specific patient’s injury is work-related or not.

Dr. Olesya Fomenko, the author of the report and an economist at WCRI, said that, “Policymakers have always focused on the impact fee schedules have on access to care as well as utilization of services. This study shines a light on an issue that policymakers and other system stakeholders might not be thinking of, which is that physicians may call an injury work-related in order to receive a higher reimbursement for care he or she provides to the patient.”

Two of the findings from the study are as follows:

  • If the cause of injury is not straightforward (e.g., soft tissue conditions), case-shifting is more common in the states with higher workers’ compensation reimbursement rates. In particular, the study estimated that a 20 percent growth in workers’ compensation payments for physician services provided during an office visit increases the number of soft tissue injuries being called work-related by 6 percent.
  • There was no evidence of case-shifting from group health to workers’ compensation for patients with conditions for which causation is more certain (e.g., fractures, lacerations, and contusions).

What does this mean?

It means that physicians seeking higher reimbursements are classifying some injuries as work-related, and that there is no evidence of case-shifting from group health where the cause is more determinable.

What it also means is that no matter what the industry tries to do to lower medical costs, there is always a way for physicians and other stakeholders to do the opposite for their own benefit.

And given that, you have to wonder why the industry is deaf, dumb and blind to alternatives that apply basic economic laws to saving money. If you can get a good or service at the same or better quality, and at lower cost, no matter where that is, you go there.

It works that way when buying cars in one state, when the buyer lives in another state, and it should work that way with medical care, particularly regarding surgery.

The industry should not listen to certain individuals who dismiss this idea, and call the locations where better or equal care can be obtained at lower cost, “Turkishmaninacanstans“.

It demeans the hard work and dedication of medical professionals and business people who have spent years and money on building a business to provide health care that is affordable and of the highest quality.

It insults the education and training of doctors, nurses, and medical technicians in those countries who otherwise might not be working in such a highly respect profession as medicine.

It only proves that the author of that canard is a coward, a racist, and dead wrong.

 

Health care delivery varies a LOT – and there’s your opportunity

So, medicine is a science right? If it is, then the delivery of care should be consistent across the country for patients with identical conditions, right. Absolutely not. That’s the quick takeaway from a terrific panel this morning at WCRI; … Continue reading →

Source: Health care delivery varies a LOT – and there’s your opportunity

Joe Paduda, blogging from the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute’s (WCRI) annual conference in Boston, has shined a light on where medical travel providers can prove that their lower cost, high quality medical care can produce better outcomes for both patients (injured workers) and their employers.

If what Joe says about a huge variation in medical care delivery across geography – why medical care for identical conditions for the same type of patient varies greatly from place to place is pervasive, fascinating, and, more to the point, driver of low quality and high cost care is true, then it would provide an opportunity for international medical providers to stress in their marketing that they do not have different kinds of treatment for the same type of patient, no matter where the medical care is received.

The rest of his article should give international medical providers a better understanding of how to attract not only patients (injured workers), but their employers and insurance companies.

Proving that, for example, disc replacement provides a better outcome than spinal fusion and is lower cost in your facility outside the US, will go a long way to convince both patients and employers and payers of the efficacy of medical travel.

Knowing that there is such a wide discrepancy in delivery of care across the US for the same type of patient and is responsible for lower quality and higher cost is a strength the medical travel industry can exploit.

What do you think?

WCRI: Day One, Part Three: The 2nd Opt-Out Session

Bruce Wood, of the American Insurance Association, led off the second Opt-Out session by reminding participants that the 1972 National Commission “considered and rejected employer or employee…

Source: WCRI: Day One, Part Three: The 2nd Opt-Out Session

No one should drink the kool-aid on this idea just yet.