WCRI Releases Free 31-State Tool to Help Policymakers Better Understand Growth of Medical Prices in Workers’ Compensation

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This WCRI study tracks medical prices paid in 31 states from calendar year 2008 through 2015 for professional services billed by physicians, physical therapists, and chiropractors. The medical services fall into eight groups: evaluation and management, physical medicine, surgery, major radiology, minor radiology, neurological testing, pain management injections, and emergency care.

Sample chart from study.

Sample chart from study.

If you want to understand how prices paid for medical professional services for injured workers in your state compare with other states and how prices in your state are changing, you would benefit from this unique tool.

In recent policy debates, increasing costs of medical care for treating injured workers have been a focus of public policymakers and system stakeholders in many states. To help them understand this growth, today the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) released its Medical Price Index for Workers’ Compensation, Eighth Edition (MPI-WC).

“If you are a policymaker or other stakeholder and want to understand how prices paid for medical professional services for injured workers in your state compare with other states and how prices in your state are changing, you would benefit from this unique tool,” said Ramona Tanabe, WCRI’s executive vice president and counsel. “You can also learn how prices and price trends are shaped by policy choices, and if the reason for change in your state is part of a national phenomenon or whether the causes are unique to your state and hence, subject to local issues.”

The WCRI MPI-WC focuses only on medical services that are commonly provided to injured workers—largely related to diagnosis and treatment of trauma and orthopedic conditions. Other available price indices, such as the Producer Price Index (PPI) and Consumer Price Index for medical care (CPI-M), published by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, cover all medical services provided to the U.S. population. Many types of services captured in the indexes have little or no relevance for tracking medical prices for the care provided to injured workers.

Additionally, changes in prices paid under workers’ compensation systems are likely to be related to regulation choices made by the states. The BLS CPI-M for professional services does not track workers’ compensation price trends well. Over the study period, workers’ compensation prices in the study states with fee schedules grew slower than the national price inflation measure by the CPI-M, while workers’ compensation prices in states without fee schedules increased faster than the CPI-M.

The MPI-WC tracks medical prices paid in 31 states from calendar year 2008 through 2015 for professional services billed by physicians, physical therapists, and chiropractors. The medical services fall into eight groups: evaluation and management, physical medicine, surgery, major radiology, minor radiology, neurological testing, pain management injections, and emergency care.

The 31 states included in the MPI-WC, which represent 85 percent of the workers' compensation benefits paid in the United States, are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The authors of this study are Dr. Rebecca Yang and Dr. Olesya Fomenko. Click on the following link to download a FREE copy of this report: http://www.wcrinet.org/studies/public/books/wcri184.pdf.

The Cambridge-based WCRI is recognized as a leader in providing high quality, objective information about public policy issues involving workers' compensation systems.

ABOUT WCRI:

The Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) is an independent, not-for-profit research organization based in Cambridge, MA. Organized in late 1983, the Institute does not take positions on the issues it researches; rather, it provides information obtained through studies and data collection efforts, which conform to recognized scientific methods. Objectivity is further ensured through rigorous, unbiased peer review procedures. WCRI's diverse membership includes employers; insurers; governmental entities; managed care companies; health care providers; insurance regulators; state labor organizations; and state administrative agencies in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

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Andrew Kenneally
Workers Compensation Research Institute - WCRI
since: 06/2011
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