Maryland ‘Value Proposition’ for Injured Workers Gets Middle Grade

October 23, 2008

When employers pay more for medical care for injured workers, workers should experience better outcomes. Otherwise, the logical question becomes: “Why are employers paying more?”

Comparing Outcomes for Injured Workers in Maryland, a new study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), analyzed how Maryland compared with nine other states within the context of this “key value proposition.”

When compared to nine other states, on most measures outcomes for injured workers in Maryland were generally in the middle of the range or better.

The study juxtaposed worker outcomes in each study state within the areas of recovery of physical health and functioning, return to work, access to medical care and satisfaction with medical care with data on the costs and utilization of medical care.

On average, employers in Maryland paid less for medical care per claim with more than 7 days of lost time than most other study states. The average paid medical cost per claim with more than 7 days of lost time was 31 percent lower than the average medical cost in the median of the ten states studied, largely due to a lower than typical fee schedule.

Recoveries of injured workers in Maryland were in the middle of the range of states studied, according to WCRI. The average worker in Maryland received a typical amount of medical care and reported a typical physical recovery after his or her injury.

Workers in Maryland had return-to-work outcomes typical of the study states, said WCRI. Nine percent of Maryland workers reported never having returned to work and 15 percent reported never having a substantial return to work (one that lasted at least 1 month) predominantly due to their injury as of 2 1/2 years postinjury.

Maryland workers typically returned to substantial employment within 8 weeks of their injury, putting the state in the middle group of states. Only 21 percent of Maryland workers did not have a substantial return to work 1 year postinjury — a better outcome compared to most other states studied. However, 38 percent of workers reported that they returned to work “too soon” — the second highest among the states studied.

The study also found that:
Workers in Maryland reported problems accessing medical care that were typical of the states in the study. Some 12 percent of workers reported that they were very dissatisfied with how quickly they saw their primary provider after their injury, similar to the middle group of states (10 to 14 percent).

The vast majority of workers in Maryland reported that they were somewhat or very satisfied with the timeliness of their first visit to their initial and primary provider (82 percent for each measure).

Some workers, however, did report “big problems” in gaining access to the providers or services they wanted — 8 to 11 percent, depending on the question asked.

The vast majority of workers (82 percent) reported that they were somewhat or very satisfied overall with the care they received. Although, approximately 1 in 10 said they were very dissatisfied with their medical care, this was still in the middle of the range of states studied.

Maryland had among the lowest percentage of workers who wanted to change their initial or primary providers due to dissatisfaction with their care. Fewer Maryland workers wanted to change providers than in most other study states.

The study consisted of telephone interviews with 754 workers in Maryland who received workers’ compensation income benefits for injuries that arose between November 2003 and May 2004. The interviews were conducted during June to September 2007 — on average, about 3 1/2 years after the dates of the workers’ injuries.

WCRI is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization supported in its public policy research by employers, insurers, insurance regulators and state administrative

Source: WCRI
www.wcrinet.org

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