Comp medical payments decline, indemnity benefits grow

Workers compensation medical payments per claim in numerous states decreased through 2020 and 2021, while indemnity benefits grew during that same time, reflecting economic changes during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to comp industry research released Tuesday.

A package of studies released Tuesday by the Workers Compensation Research Institute compared medical payments, indemnity benefits and benefit delivery expenses in 17 states and how they changed during the early days of the pandemic.

“Growth in wages was a key driver of the trend in indemnity benefits per claim,” Ramona Tanabe, WCRI executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.

Ms. Tanabe said workers’ average weekly wages grew faster in service-providing industries during the early part of the pandemic and that a shift took place in the share of claims from lower-wage to middle-wage categories.

The states highlighted in the package of studies were Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The studies’ authors noted that temporary disability duration also factored in the underlying indemnity trend, with most states highlighted in the research experiencing decreasing or stable temporary disability durations in 2021 after reported increases in the prior year.

The researchers said the reports, part of the 23rd edition of the CompScope Benchmarks, are designed to help policymakers track the effectiveness of policy changes and identify trends in states’ workers comp systems, and give insight into the overall effect COVID-19 has had on comp.

This article was first published in Business Insurance.

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