Tag Archives: Claims

State of the Line Report — 2018 Edition

It’s May, and you know what that means. It means NCCI has held its Annual Issues Symposium, and the State of the Line Report, presented by Chief Actuary Kathy Antonello.

But this year I am going to do something a little different. I am going to compare the data presented this year with some of the data from last year and the year prior, so that the reader can see how much change there has been year over year from the 2017 and 2018 reports. Last year’s data and the year before was presented in my post, “Slight Increase in Average Medical Costs for Lost-Time Claims, Part 2.”

First up, this year’s WC Average Medical Lost-Time Claim Severity in Chart 1.

Chart 1.

As you can see, there has been another slight increase in the lost-time claim severity from the 2016 to 2017 preliminary data. In 2016, the average medical lost-time claim severity was $28,800 and the preliminary 2017 severity was $29,900, an increase of nearly $1,000.

The key takeaway here is that NCCI estimates that the AY 2017 average medical lost-time claim severity is 4% higher than the corresponding AY 2016 value.

Looking back at the data from last year’s report, we can compare the preliminary 2016 data with the actual 2016 data reported above. Chart 2 exhibits last year’s data.

Chart 2.

Source: NCCI’s Financial Call Data; p Preliminary based on data valued as of 12/31/2016.

In chart 2, the preliminary medical lost-time claim severity was $29,100 and represented a 5.0% change from 2015. In 2015, it was $27,700 and saw a -1.4% change from the prior year.

This is borne out in the next chart, Chart 3, where the 2015 average medical lost-time claim severity was estimated at $28,500, or a 1.0% change from 2014.

Chart 3.

 

Next, we look at the cumulative change in medical lost-time claim severity (1997-2017p), as highlighted in chart 4.

Chart 4.

In this chart, the cumulative change in medical lost-time claim severity is contrasted with the cumulative change in the Personal Health Care Chain-Weighted Price Index (1997-2017p). The PHC is a proxy for medical care price inflation that responds to changes in the blend of different medical services over time.

From the chart, the cumulative change in medical lost-time claim severity has strongly outpaced the change in the PHC index in that same period, indicating that while the PHC index is nearly flat, the medical lost-time claim severity is rising and will continue to do so.

According to NCCI, the medical lost-time claim costs have risen faster, +175% , than the PHC index of +61%, over the period from 1997-2017, with most of the gap occurring in the years before the recession.

However, looking at the data from last year’s report, as shown in chart 5, the cumulative change in medical lost-time claim severity was much higher, as estimated by NCCI, which was +227%.

Chart 5.

Sources: NCCI’s Financial Call Data; Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ; p Preliminary based on data valued as of 12/31/2016.

The next chart, chart 6, compares the relative growth rates between medical severity and price inflation.

Chart 6.

On the left-hand side, the medical lost-time claim severity grew approximately 4.5% per year faster than the medical care prices for the same period.

On the right-hand side however, the change in the medical lost-time claim severity and the medical care price tracked one another in the same ten-year period. Yet, there is a slight rise in the medical lost-time claim severity after 2015 continuing into 2017.

The key takeaways as NCCI reported were that much of the gap between the cumulative changes in medical lost-time claim severity and the PHC index since 1997 arose from the years prior to 2007. And that both the severity and care prices have grown at approximately the same rate, as indicated above.

Lastly, the next chart, chart 7, indicates the average annual change from 2012 to 2016 for all NCCI states. Note: all states in grey are either monopolistic states or are intrastate-rated states that do not report data to NCCI.

Chart 7.

The state with the highest average annual change was Nevada, and the states with the lowest average annual change, were Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon, and Rhode Island.

The key takeaways here are that the average annual change in medical lost-time claim severity was +2.3% from the four years between 2012 and 2016. The increase in Nevada, NCCI stated, was due to a very large claim that occurred in 2016. The decrease in North Carolina was due to a combination of large claim activity in 2012 and a change in the medical fee schedule in 2013 and 2015.

But it is apparent that most states experienced a change at, or below 10% from 2012 to 2016. And if we are to believe that claim frequency is decreasing, then we must ask ourselves, why is the medical lost-time claim severity rising, as seen in chart 1, one hundred dollars short of $30,000.

One answer we have already examined is the cumulative change in medical lost-time claim severity from 1997 to 2017, although preliminary as of this week’s report.

However, what is not shown is what lies behind those numbers, i.e., what is happening in each claim to cause the severity to rise, or not rise. There is no indication, as there never is, as to what amount of the rise is due to the cost of surgery or to other claim factors such as hospital bills, ancillary services such as medical equipment, anesthesia services, any testing performed, etc. In short, we don’t know if what is causing health care costs generally to rise also is affecting the medical lost-time claim severity.

As I have stated before in this blog, workers’ compensation must look to other alternatives to help bring down the medical lost-time claim severity. This cannot be achieved by looking between all three coasts. It must include looking at less expensive, but equally advanced medical care elsewhere. Otherwise, the gap will only get wider over time.

 

 

 

 

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WA State Considering Telemedicine Legislation for WC

Legislators in Washington State are considering a bill, S. B. 5355, that would require the state’s Department of Labor & Industries to pay for telemedicine sert d require the department to provide access to telemedicine and reimburse providers for health care services provided to injured workers through such services.

The bill defines telemedicine as follows, according to the article, “the use of interactive audio and video technology, permitting real-time communication between the patient and the provider. ” It would exclude audio-only telephone calls (my White Paper mentioned this as a legal barrier to implementing medical travel into workers’ comp), fax messages, or emails.

Should this become legal, telemedicine services provided by hospitals, rural health clinics, physician offices, community mental health centers, and skilled nursing facilities would be covered.

This would have a profound impact on implementing medical travel into workers’ comp in Washington State, as this is one of two states that allows patients to travel outside the state or outside the country for medical treatment.

The Department of Labor & Industries has a page on their website called “Find A Doctor” where they list physicians in both Canada and Mexico, as well as the rest of the US, and when I began my research for my paper back in 2011, had a list of physicians in the following countries:  England, Germany, Honduras, New Zealand, the Philippines, Spain, Thailand and Ukraine.

As more states allow telemedicine services to be covered under workers’ comp, the day will come that getting surgery abroad, especially in the Western Hemisphere countries, will become reality, and will go a long way to lower costs and speed workers back to work, and relieve the stress to the health care system that repeal of the ACA will have on health care in the US.

NCCI’s 2017 Data Educational Program: A Personal View

Many of you have probably read my blog and notice that I sometimes refer to an organization called the National Council on Compensation Insurance or NCCI.

Back in the mid 1990’s, I worked there briefly, and also did a stint with a software vendor company reporting data to NCCI and independent state bureaus for workers’ compensation claims and policy data.

One of my blog readers told me about this year’s conference held in West Palm Beach and that we could me there. He came down from North Carolina yesterday, but left after the last class.

The program began on Tuesday, but I attended sessions starting on Wednesday. These are the classes I took:

  • Unit Statistical Data Editing and Correction
  • Medical Data Call Validation
  • Medical Data Collection Tool
  • Introduction to Unit Statistical Data Reporting (refresher course for me)
  • DCI Data Validation and Quality Issues
  • WCSTAT (Unit) Data File Submission and Processing
  • Unit Statistical Data-Premium Rating Programs and Exposures
  • Unit Statistical Data-Loss and Claim Conditions

Most of the classes were two hours long, with a fifteen minute break in between.

The classes were given by two presenters who rotated during the sessions, so that you did not get just one person’s knowledge and experience.

The participants ranged in age, but many were considerably younger than your humble writer. I had missed the 2oth anniversary reception Tuesday evening, but this was not really a social event, so it did not matter.

The technology I saw displayed this week was a far cry from what I worked with back in the 90’s, and is all web-based and very easy to learn. My impression from the information presented in all classes was that NCCI is taking a more customer-friendly approach to workers’ comp data reporting, which was something I found lacking back in the 90’s.

I know there are still areas of contention with some aspects of NCCI’s ratemaking role, as someone recently pointed out on LinkedIn regarding higher premiums for certain classification codes that are forcing small businesses out of business, but that is the exception and not the rule.

Overall, I felt it was worth it to attend, and I have gained a better appreciation for data reporting.

 

Dear Reader, con’t.

Last month, I told you that I was planning to shut down my blog because of my acceptance of a new position.

Unfortunately, some things were not meant to be, and while I was waiting until the new year to end the blog, I have decided to reverse course and keep it up and running, so those of you who have enjoyed my writing will have more to enjoy, I hope.

This still leaves me back where I was in October when I accepted the position, so if any of you have something in mind, let me know.

I am open to consulting with anyone. Resume furnished upon request.

Higher Work Comp Claims Costs for Older Workers

Before this site goes dark, here is a post I could not ignore from my friend, Maria Todd.

Those of you in work comp who sneered at my idea because I did not have any “credibility”, I dare you to challenge Maria. She has more experience in these matters than many of you put together, and a PhD to boot.

And if you find my comments disturbing, too bad! I’ve had to put up with your lousy treatment of me for four years.

Here’s the link:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/aon-workers-compensation-claim-costs-increase-mature-k-todd-mha-phd?trk=hb_ntf_MEGAPHONE_ARTICLE_POST

 

Average Medical Costs in Work Comp Leveling Off

Once again it is time to look at the average medical costs for lost-time claims in workers’ comp. as reported last week in the NCCI State of the Line Report at the 2016 Annual Issues Symposium.

Those of you who have read my White Paper, or have followed this blog for sometime, know that this is an annual meeting of industry people in Florida to look at what is happening in workers’ comp.

It is not a conspiracy meeting of insiders looking to harm injured workers, as one deranged individual has suggested. [Emphasis added]

But rather, it is one way in which insurance personnel can understand where the workers’ compensation insurance market is headed. And the word this year, from Joe Paduda’s reporting last week is “Transitioning”.

Workers’ comp is transitioning and what it is transitioning into has been discussed previously by both Joe and Peter Rousmaniere, and that I have described in earlier posts.

One aspect of this transitioning has to do with automation and the development of artificial intelligence that will make many current jobs obsolete [remember that Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith and Fritz Weaver where the State declared them both ‘obsolote’?]

Another part of this transitioning relates to the so-called ‘gig economy’ of companies like Uber and Lyft, Airbnb, etc., as well as the move of some jobs to part-time from full-time status, whatever the reason given.

But let’s move on to the issue at hand, which is, what is the average medical cost for lost-time claims this year. As you will see in the first chart, the average medical cost for lost-time claim dropped 1% from 2014, where there had been an increase from 2013 of 3%.

Chart 1.

Avg Med Cost 2016

Unlike past charts, this year’s chart shows that there are two years of preliminary data, 2014 and 2014. Compare that to last year’s chart, found here, as well as the two previous years, 2014 and 2015.

In 2014, the average medical cost per lost-time claim was $28,800; in 2015, the average medical cost dropped a mere $300 to $28,500, not very significant, but perhaps signalling a leveling off. You will notice in my previous articles and in my White Paper that I included a trendline that always showed the cost increasing, but it is apparent by looking at this year’s chart that there seems to be a flattening occurring.

According to Kathy Antonello’s report, the two key takeaways are:

  •  Medical severity change has moderated in recent years
  • The 2015 average medical cost is 1% lower than the 2014 value

Another factor to consider is how much of the total claim cost does medical payments per claim represent. As shown in the second chart, medical costs have remained at 58% of total claim cost, with indemnity (lost wages) representing the rest.

Chart 2.

Ind Med Split

As you can see, medical costs have risen significantly since 1981. Another way to view the change in average medical cost and its apparent leveling off can be seen in the third chart.

Chart 3.

WC Ave Med Cost

Chart 3 indicates that the cumulative change in excess of medical care inflation from 1995 to 2015 has joined the cumulative change in average medical cost from 1995 to 2015p in leveling off.

What this means, according to Ms. Antonello, is that workers’ comp medical costs per claim have risen at a much faster pace than indemnity over the past thirty years, medical inflation has outpaced wage growth, medical lost-time severity has increased 214% since 1995, and the corresponding increase in medical lost-time severity over and above the increase in medical price inflation is 55%.

What this also indicates is that workers’ comp is changing, and many predict that in a few years, workers’ comp as we have known it will disappear. Then perhaps treating injuries to certain body parts as knees, backs, shoulders, etc., common to both workers’ comp and general health care won’t be separated into different silos, but rather paid for as one medical expense under an employer’s health plan or even a single payer plan.

Either way, medical travel, given the predicted shortages of physicians and nurses, may present itself as a viable alternative, and not be subjected to antiquated laws and statutes that restrict an injured worker from getting medical care wherever they want to. And if predictions about artificial intelligence and automation are correct, then it won’t really matter, since very few individuals will be hurt on the job in the future.

There is an old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”


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.

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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.