Employers Under-report Work Injuries : BLS

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the number of workplace injuries provided by employers is “grossly” underreported, according to the most recent data. The numbers reported as of 2015 were 3 million injuries, which the BLS says is way too low. Until new data presents itself, there is no way to know if it’s improving.

As to why, BLS says some employees opt not to go through the workers’ comp system, opting to go through the health care system where they can’t be turned away. Others fear intimidation or discipline if they report.

One big incentive for staffing firms and other employers to discourage employees from going through the workers’ comp system is to keep workers’ comp rates low. Fewer injuries means a lower X-Mod and lower premiums. BLS says it’s cracking down by sitting down with employers and going over their work injury data directly. This year it’s going to start interviewing employees directly.

Staffing firms should encourage employees to report all injuries and accurately report the data, as it is not uncommon for unscrupulous firms to engage in premium fraud. LeastStaff has many workers’ comp and general insurance solutions to keep your insurance rates as low as possible.

Visit our web site at www.leaststaff.com, call us at 202-302-1212, or email us at david@leaststaff.com for more information about all our staffing and workers’ comp offerings.

Sincerely
David Schek
President
Leaststaff.com

States Cracking Down on Opioids

The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute found that out of 25 states in 2016, 55% to 85% of injured workers who missed more than seven days of work were prescribed an opioid prescription for pain.

The more frequent prescriptions are given out, the more likely an injured worker will get hooked and unable to return to work. Even when a claim has been settled, an injured worker may still be receiving painkillers. Some states are cracking down on this problem by passing laws and leading programs to wean injured workers off opioids. Employers, including staffing companies, should be aware of these efforts.

In Massachusetts, a volunteer program is expediting medication hearings to settle disputes quickly, and guide workers toward alternatives to deal with pain. Kentucky passed a law this summer, regulating pain clinics, and set standards for dispensing and prescribing opioids. The result has already borne fruit for workers’ comp patients, according to recent data. The proportion of Kentucky workers with pain medications who received opioids in the first 12 months after injury decreased from 54% before the new law to 44% post legislation.

The quicker injured workers are off painkillers, they’ll be healthier and back to work faster. That means lower workers’ comp costs for employers. LeastStaff has many workers’ comp and general insurance solutions to keep your insurance rates as low as possible.

Visit our web site at www.leaststaff.com, call us at 202-302-1212, or email us at david@leaststaff.com for more information about all our staffing and workers’ comp offerings.

Sincerely
David Schek
President
Leaststaff.com

Integrity Staffing Solutions Shines for Safety

Integrity Staffing Solutions has been recognized by the American Staffing Association (ASA) for its outstanding dedication to safety. It’s earned the Safety Standard and Excellence mark for its successful participation in the program.

The recognition demonstrates Integrity’s dedication to safety for both its temporary workers and host employers. By working together they can delineate responsibilities and identify and mitigate safety problems before they cause illness or injury. It demonstrates a proactive approach that all the staffing firms should employ.

All ASA members could benefit from participating in the program. Fewer or no injuries can result in lower X-Mods and lower workers’ comp costs. LeastStaff has many workers’ comp and general insurance solutions to keep your insurance rates as low as possible.

Visit our web site at www.leaststaff.com, call us at 202-302-1212, or email us at david@leaststaff.com for more information about all our staffing and workers’ comp offerings.

Sincerely
David Schek
President
Leaststaff.com

National Safety Week: A Good Time to Lower Work Comp Costs

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is promoting safety in the month of June. June 12-18 is Safe+Sound Week, the goal being to encourage industries of all stripes to promote the importance of work safety. OSHA points out that a successful safety program has three core elements:

  • Strong management leadership in establishing and managing a safety program. It must come from the top.
  • A culture of safety that encourages workers to report safety issues and suggest safety improvements. Workers must feel comfortable about reporting safety hazards without fear of retaliation
  • A “find and fix” approach that calls upon both workers and employers to routinely check workplaces for safety hazards before an accident or illness occurs.

Next week’s national focus is a good opportunity for employers, including staffing firms, to go over their injury illness and prevention programs to make sure they’re properly addressing all safety problems and encouraging to employees speak up.

A strong safety program means a safer workplace and fewer accidents. Fewer accidents means lower workers’ comp costs. This is also a good time to review your workers’ comp coverage. LeastStaff has many workers’ comp and general insurance solutions to keep your insurance rates as low as possible.

Visit our web site at www.leaststaff.com, call us at 202-302-1212, or email us at david@leaststaff.com for more information about all our staffing and workers’ comp offerings.

Sincerely
David Schek
President
Leaststaff.com

A Costly Conundrum For Staffing Firms: Fewer Claims But Higher Medical Costs

There is an interesting paradox within workers’ compensation. It’s both good news and bad news for the staffing industry. Because of automation and greater attention to safety, work injuries are decreasing. According to Peter Rousmaniere, a well-known consultant in risk management, they have dropped by 35% since 1993. But, as he points out, the cost of claims administration has increased as have medical benefits. Benefits currently cost $65 million a year. 1A company can have 50 employees, but one injury, depending on the type, can cost an employer hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So why the rise in medical, if claims are dropping, and what does this mean for staffing firms? Staffing firms are employers too. In most states, staffing firms are jointly responsible for workers’ comp and must carry appropriate coverage for the different jobs classifications they provide. As such, they can pick and choose low risk categories. But supply and demand dictates that employers may require unskilled and semi-skilled workers with greater risk such as in some manufacturing and logistics jobs. They may also require skilled labor in risky services such as health care in correctional facilities.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is putting a microscope on temporary labor, which one hopes will lead to improvements in safety. The data show that regardless of the profession, claims will continue to decline over the next ten years. At the same time, the use of temporary workers is expected to increase by 13% according to Economic Modeling Specialists International and CareerBuilder. If these trends continue, staffing firms will benefit from the increase in temporary workers and fewer claims. But those claims will be more expensive.
For a small employer this drives workers’ comp rates up making it difficult to find workers’ comp coverage. For some staffing companies the only option is a state fund.

Causes of Increased Medical Costs

  • The cost of workers comp reform. Despite attempts by numerous states to lower the costs of workers’ comp for employers, the results have been mixed. Many of the reforms include fee schedules, medical provider networks and medical treatment guidelines for work injuries, the latter of which can involve a utilization review process to determine the best treatment. Some states including Texas and Ohio have drug formularies for workers’ comp. Other states are considering formularies to control the cost and overprescribing of medication. California has gone through several rounds of reform and seen workers’ comp costs decrease in some areas. But the cost containment mechanisms create a bureaucracy that costs money in administration and compliance. As a result, third-party vendors have sprung up to provide these services. Claims adjusters have to be trained in the new regulations, which vary by state. What’s considered acceptable treatment in one state may not be so in another.
  • Profiteering in pharmaceuticals. As workers’ comp reforms capped fees and limited treatment, many enterprising physicians turned to office dispensing of medications. Because the drugs were dispensed by the doctor directly, the markup would be three or four times the cost of the same medication at a pharmacy. This is lucrative business for physicians, but a major cost driver for employers. Eighteen states, including California, closed this loophole. While costs dropped in California, according to the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, physicians found ways around the law. If a fee schedule is based on specific dosages, doctors change to a dosage outside the schedule and continue to charge above the average wholesale price. This practice also poses dangers to injured workers, as many of the medications are pain killers including opioids. Easy access and little oversight fuels addiction.
  • Specialty drugs. They’re a breakthrough in treatment, but the cost of these drugs can be high. One such drug, Solvaldi, is used to treat Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is most common in professions where the possibility of a needle prick can expose workers to blood borne pathogens, such as health care. They can be expensive costing $1,000 a day, according to Teresa Bartlett, senior vice president of medical quality for Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. 2Like many medications, as new brands and generics enter the market, costs may drop. A big unknown is whether, despite the cost, these drugs are effective. Insurers and employers—in particular staffing companies providing nurses or health care professionals– need to pay attention to the length of treatment and switch medications if necessary.
  • Compound drugs. The use of compound drugs continues to plague the workers’ comp system, despite attempts to curtail it. Compounds are mixtures of different drugs sold at huge markups. Topical compounds are common and almost identical to off-the-shelf brands with added ingredients of dubious effectiveness such as wasabi. California placed fee schedules on compounds in 2012, but according to research by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute while this resulted in a decline in prescribed compounds, costs continued to grow, partly because of the addition of new ingredients, which increased the expense3. Future studies will determine if this is a trend and if more changes to the fee schedule will fix the problem.
  • Improvements in medical care. This is a good thing for injured workers, but costly for employers. Thanks to breakthroughs in robotics and prosthetics, injured workers are able to regain mobility after catastrophic work accidents. Even those workers with brain injuries and quadriplegics can live longer lives. None of these technologies are cheap and with longer life spans, employers need to take into account the cost of Medicare Set Asides (MSA).
  • Litigation. Litigation is a significant cost driver. Injured workers feel they have no choice, but to get a lawyer, if employers and insurance companies delay or deny treatment. In states such as California reforms over the last several years have limited treatment and permanent disability payments. Some laws are so convoluted that it takes a lawyer just to interpret it. The longer treatment is delayed, the more likely an injured worker will obtain counsel. Employers will also incur their own legal bills and may prefer to settle at some point, even if it means agreeing to treatment outside medically approved guidelines. These claims are usually the most expensive any may involve body parts that are difficult to treat such as backs and shoulders.
  • Challenges to the no-fault system. Factors such as cumulative trauma and comorbidities such as weight or hypertension can aggravate injuries causing litigation. These injuries may also result in temporary or permanent disability. Payers may refuse to pay all or parts of a claim where the injury is aggravated by a pre-existing condition. California is considering legislation that would prevent discrimination against women injured at work, if a payer asserts an injury was caused, or aggravated by, pregnancy or menopause.
  • Delayed Return to Work. Part and parcel of expensive claims is the impact they have on return to work. According to research by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, injured workers who feared for their jobs and distrusted their supervisors or claims adjusters were slower or less likely to return to work. This causes claims to linger and increase in costs as benefits continue to accrue. Employers need to do their best to accommodate injured workers, even if it means moving them to a different job. Communication is important, especially if an injured worker feels he or she may get fired or mistreated.
  • Copy service fees. Litigators on both sides of a workers’ comp dispute say they’re being charged ridiculous amounts of money by copy services to make copies of documents related to workers’ comp cases. It is a relatively small cost driver, but whether a fee schedule for copy services is necessary is being debated, particularly in California. Recent legislation in the Golden State includes a requirement to come up with some sort of pricing scheme. Despite its relatively miniscule impact on the cost of a claim, it is one more example of a third party making money off the system.
  • New types of claims. Many states are considering post-traumatic stress disorder as a work injury including Colorado and Connecticut. Connecticut’s bill, should it be signed by the governor, would apply only to firefighter, police and first responders, a cost that will be passed onto taxpayers. Because this a new trend, it is unknown whether it will increase claims, but it could increase in the cost depending on the treatment. It could also spark debates on whether it should apply to the workplace in general because of bullying or harassment. So far these proposals have faced an uphill battle in public safety because of budget constraints.

It is too soon to tell whether state reforms will drive down medical costs. Unfortunately, when one cost is contained another one opens, prompting a new discussion on how it should be addressed. The grand bargain of workers’ compensation is supposed to be between the employer and the worker. On the upside, fewer accidents and cutting edge medical care is getting workers’ back to work and improving quality of life. On the downside, abuse and profiteering by third parties and lack of communication between injured workers, employers and claims adjusters will continue to increase medical costs and poor outcomes for injured workers.

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1 Rousmanieri, Peter. Seismic Shift: An Essential Guide for Practitioners and CEOs in Workers’ Comp. February 2015
2 Goldberg, Stephanie. “Specialty, Compounded Drugs Driving Up Costs.” Business Insurance. March 12, 2015
3 Swedlow, Alex, Gardner, Laura B., Ireland, John, “Differences In Outcomes for Injured Workers Receiving Physician-Dispensed Repackaged Drugs in the California Workers’ Compensation System. California Workers’ Compensation Institute. February 2013.

 

Tips For Reducing Workers Compensation Accidents This Holiday Season

During this holiday Season, the increased use of temporary employees to meet peak demand by many of your clients, may result in higher than normal workers compensation accidents for your staffing company.

Below is a link  to  a short article suggesting some good, common sense steps you can take to minimize workers compensation accidents at your client’s sites this holiday season.

http://www.workcompwire.com/2014/12/guest-post-woody-hill-tis-the-season-for-workplace-safety/

There are 2  key points that this author makes. The first is that  training, which is important throughout the year, is even more critical this holiday season since you are probably dealing with many new and relatively less trained employees. The second tip is to make sure these less experienced temporary employees are familiar with the surroundings and potential hazards in their new work place.

Please let me know if you would like to start the New Year with a workers compensation quote that can save you money and increase your profits in 2015.  Feel free to contact me at david@leaststaff.com and visit us at www.leaststaff.com

All the best and happy holidays.
David Schek
President
Leaststaff.com
American Staffing Association Member
ASA Exhibitor  2014 Conference
ASA  Staffing PAC Contributor

Leaststaff.com—- Workers Compensation Specialists and Staffing Business Consultants For Over 25 Years.

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