Group Issues Report Cards for State Workers' Comp Performance

July 23, 2004
A new study based on data from OSHA Form 300's and 200's, covering all OSHA recordable injuries and illnesses, provides the basis for state-by state rating of workers' compensation performance prepared by the Work Loss Data Institute.

The study, called 2004 State Report Cards for Workers' Comp, measured incidence rates, cases missing work, median disability durations, delayed recovery rate, and key conditions lower back strain and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Alabama was the "most improved" state in overall ranking, and received an "A." Utah also received an "A," with the report authors saying workers' compensation case outcomes in the state continue to improve. Indiana also has excellent outcomes, especially in minimizing missed work, and received an "A." Minnesota is one of nine states receiving an "A" in 2002, as were Georgia, Iowa and Virginia.

New Mexico has the unfortunate distinction of being the "biggest decliner" since 2000, when they got a "B+." The most recent grade was a "D." Texas has actually made some improvement, going from an "F" to a "D-." This improvement is primarily due to an excellent performance in prevention and safety (keeping the incidence rate of cases low compared to the population as a whole). However, when it comes to return-to-work (delayed recovery and median disability durations), Texas remains last.

California, the largest state, received a flunking grade. Performance was not good on all measures, but is close to the bottom when it comes to getting workers back on the job and preventing outliers, especially for carpal tunnel syndrome. According to the study, New York has gotten even worse. It received an "F," but went from being in the middle of the "F's" to being in last place as a state (and second to last after Puerto Rico). Other "F's" were received by Delaware, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Wyoming.

A summary of each grade for all states is shown on a U.S. map located at

The report also analyzes the association of specific managed care programs to outcomes by comparing the average ranking for those participating states with the program to the average ranking for those participating states without the program. Participating states with a state workers' compensation insurance fund did slightly worse than states with no state fund, with a decline in ranking of 1.2 points. Limiting provider choice seems to result in a very large positive difference in ranking, with states going up in the ranking by 9.5 points when provider choice is limited. Use of a fee schedule indicates a decline in the ranking by 3.4 points, and use of state-specific treatment guidelines manifests a decline of 5.9 points.

The 83-page WLDI special report, "2004 State Report Cards for Workers' Comp," can be purchased in hardcopy or electronic format for $225 each by calling WLDI at (800) 488-5548.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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