Comp medical payments decrease slightly during pandemic

Medical payments per claim decreased more than 3% in the pandemic years 2020 and 2021 in half of the states studied by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research organization studied medical costs for 2020 injuries with costs incurred through March 2021 in 18 states, finding that the reductions —following four years of stable or modest growth — “likely reflects factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Temporary suspensions of nonemergency treatment and procedures, avoidance of care because of concerns about contracting COVID-19 and increases in the use of telehealth services contributed to changes in medical payments and utilization,” Ramona Tanabe, executive vice president and counsel for WCRI, said in a statement.

“In addition, other factors — such as the timing and severity of the pandemic, the speed of resuming nonemergency surgeries and procedures, the degree of reliance on hospital care, and state policies — influenced the differences in medical trends across states,” she said.

Of the states WCRI studied, Indiana appeared to see the largest drop in medical payments: a decline of 14% in 2020-21 for non-COVID-19 claims after growing 11% year over year in 2019. Other states saw modest decreases in the 4% to 5% range.

This article was first published in Business Insurance.

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