Comp costs continue to rise with age: WCRI

The increasing number of people remaining in the workforce past traditional retirement age presents challenging questions for the workers compensation industry, according to research presented Thursday at the Workers Compensation Research Institute’s 36th Annual Issues & Research Conference.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2028, 20% of workers in the labor force will be age 55 or older.

“That raises lots of questions,” said Bogdan Savych, public policy analyst for Boston-based WCRI. “How do you price premiums? What kind of occupational care are you providing? What will happen to outcomes?”

Aggregate numbers show that average medical payments per claim for seven or more days of lost time increase with age. Payments average around $8,000 for the youngest workers and more than $20,000 for workers aged 65 and older, but that data fails to show the whole story, Mr. Savych said.

Younger workers are substantially more likely to experience contact injuries compared with those aged 65 or older, who are the least likely to suffer such injuries, according to WCRI data. The oldest workers have nearly triple the frequency of experiencing a compensable fall, slip or trip. This, Mr. Savych said, is likely due to the nature of the jobs performed by younger workers, who are more likely to work in food preparation where they’re at risk of contact injuries such as cuts, and the effects of aging that make older workers more susceptible to trips and falls.

While the number of fractures didn’t vary substantially from the youngest to the oldest workers, the type of fracture suffered by each age group differed. Younger workers were about as likely to experience a leg fracture as older workers and somewhat less likely to experience an upper extremity fracture. Workers 50 and older were the only ones statistically to experience a hip fracture, and the incidence increased with age.

Although the data did not break down these injuries by gender, WCRI President and CEO John Ruser said women tend to experience fractures at an earlier age than men in the workforce “and more frequently, too.”

Indemnity payments also steadily increased by age from less than $5,000 per claim with at least seven days of lost time to more than $20,000 for workers aged 55 to 64, but this figure dropped for workers aged 65 and older, which Mr. Savych said could be attributable to these workers re-entering the workforce post retirement at a lower wage.

This article was first published by Business Insurance.

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