Injured Workers in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania More Likely to Return to Work

Workers in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania are more likely to return to work after an injury than workers in Texas and California, despite similar pre-injury levels of health and function.

According to a new report from the Workers' Compensation Research Institute that compared return to work data from the four states, one of a series of reports measuring key outcomes for workers injured on the job, workers from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania were more likely to stay at work for at least one month (a "substantial" return to work) following a return to work and return to work more quickly than those in Texas and California.

The four states in the report represent large and diverse systems, with differing state laws about provider choice, medical fee schedules, claim costs and other system features.

The study focuses on a set of core worker outcomes that are typically at the center of public policy debates: recovery of health, return to work and the sustainability of that return, worker satisfaction with health care, and access to health care. These measures, when combined with other benchmarks, help identify the system improvements that result in better outcomes for workers without raising costs to employers or that result in lower costs without adversely affecting worker outcomes.

The report found that:

  • Workers in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania reported more satisfactory recoveries of health, despite higher medical costs and greater use of medical services in Texas and California.
  • The vast majority of workers reported they were able to obtain timely access to the medical providers and services they sought. However, some workers (9-20 percent, depending on the question asked) reported big problems in accessing providers or medical services.
  • Most workers (80-85 percent) were "somewhat" or "very satisfied" with their medical care, overall. However, only 68 percent of injured workers in California reported they were somewhat or very satisfied with their initial provider, compared with Pennsylvania and Texas (78 percent) and Massachusetts (84 percent).
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