Workers Comp Industry Remains Healthy
In spite of the pandemic.
That’s according to Bill Donnell, president and CEO of the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).
Workers comp premiums declined 10 percent in 2020, but the calendar year combined ratio (sum of all claims reserves and operating expenses) for private insurance carriers was 87%. The reserve redundancy (the amount of surplus funds available to insurers after all expenses and claim reserves have been paid) grew to $14 billion. These are “both signs of strength and resilience in our system,” said Donnell.
There were 45,000 COVID-19 claims and $260 million in workers’ compensation losses in accident year 2020, an average claim severity of nearly $6,000.
By far, frontline healthcare workers felt the impact of the pandemic the most. According to NCCI data, nearly 75 percent of reported COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims have so far involved workers at nursing homes, hospitals, and other healthcare settings, plus first responders.
However, said Donnell, “we have not seen the number of claims that some feared might severely strain the workers’ compensation system.”
Other notable aspects of the pandemic affecting workers compensation, according to Donnell, include its impact on:
The medical community quickly adapted to make telemedicine more accessible at the onset of the pandemic. It now appears to have secured its role as a permanent fixture of our healthcare system, according to Donnell.
Most states have at least made temporary changes because of the pandemic. Unfortunately, some of these innovations are in jeopardy because they were made only temporarily.
For example, in Florida, when Governor Ron DeSantis let an executive order declaring a public health emergency expire, many regulatory obstacles that were removed to help health care providers during the pandemic, including flexibilities related to telehealth, became reinstated.
Thus, telephones are now no longer an acceptable platform for delivering telehealth services to non-Medicare patients in Florida. Physicians also cannot use telehealth to prescribe controlled substances to existing patients for treating chronic non-malignant pain.
But there is momentum for making these changes permanent in state legislatures. For example, Texas has introduced a bill (H.B. 3098) to permit the comp industry to conduct medical reviews using telemedicine. California has passed legislation that allows virtual independent medical exams. Lawmakers in Montana, Colorado, Arkansas and New Jersey have also introduced legislation to better govern remote care. Many see technological changes like these the wave of the future./p>
Availability of Health Care Services for Workers
There were concerns that lack of availability of health care services for injured workers could impede recovery and drive-up claim costs. But even though treatment times slowed at the beginning of the pandemic, by the second quarter time to treatment recovered to pre-pandemic levels, according to NCCI data.
Two of the critical economic components for workers’ compensation, such as the costs related to insurers writing and employers obtaining the coverage, are workers’ wages and medical costs. Employment has been ramping up rapidly after the pandemic recession, and there are some signs of rising wages.
Despite the rise of costs such as lumber and cars in other economic sectors, there’s been no rapid increase in workers comp medical costs as yet. In fact, compared with 2019, NCCI estimates that the 2020 change in average medical lost-time claim severity will moderate — somewhere between plus or minus 2 percent.
Vitality of Workers Comp System
“In the U.S. workers’ compensation system, the pandemic has reinforced the necessity of workplace safety, the flexibility required of employers, employees, and policymakers, and the vital role that our system plays in the economy. It has also taught us lessons about being alert and watchful for future issues,” according to Donnell.
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In this issue:
This Just In...
Workers Comp Industry Remains Healthy
Employers Face Wrongful Death Claims from Pandemic
5 Exceptions to the Exclusive Remedy Rule
More Evidence In Favor of Evidence Based Medicine