Workers Comp Zone


Your favorite Aunt worked hard, but also played hard.

She lived pretty much paycheck to paycheck, like many people in our society. What little money was in her 401k pretty much dried up in the post-Lehman crash.

The dream of twilight years sipping Tequila Sunrises at a Del Webb retirement community now fades. Auntie is going to be working into her seventies, or beyond, to pay her bills.

As this scenario gets played out with the aging boomer generation, what are the projected consequences for California’s workers’ comp system?

Maybe not all that much.

At least that’s the conclusion of a powerpoint presentation to CHSWC in Oakland this week. The talk, by Frank Neuhauser of UC Berkeley, was an update on research funded by CHSWC.

Titled “Working Safer or Just Working Longer? Impact of an Aging Workforce on Injury Frequency and Disability Cost?”, the study is being done by Neuhauser and UC Berkeley grad student Anita Mathur.

Looking at 350,000 disability claims, assigning risk values for workers in the Current Population Survey, using WCIS data and controlling for other factors (note: the methodology was difficult to follow in the limited powerpoint graphs, and a text comp of the study is not yet available), the study assigns risk values for workers and calculates the risk for age and gender.

Neuhauser and Mathur conclude that the aging of the worker population will have small impact on overall costs in workers’ comp.

That’s counterintuitive.

One would expect that aging workers would have confounding medical problems which could result in higher medical treatment costs and increased indemnity costs. On the other hand, perhaps older workers do “work smarter”, or transition into less risky jobs.

Here are some of the primary conclusions that Neuhauser claimed:
-in 2010 workers older than 55 were 11.8% of the workforce but by 2030 it will increase to 22%
-injury rates decline after 24 for men and 64 for women
-duration of days paid for injury increases with age for both men and women
-after 18-24, women’s injury rates are higher as they age
-women’s injury rates are substantially higher if they are doing the same job as men (Neuhauser speculated that this might be because many workplace machines and processes were designed wqith men in mind)
-a “surprising finding that women are at much greater risk than men, at all ages”

But Neuhauser noted that the effects of aging may be substantial for age specific programs such as Medicare. According to the powerpoint talking points this is said to include the following factors:
-the cost of Medicare Set-Asides have substantially increased (note:
nothing requires claimants of carriers to settle medical and thus there would be no required MSAs)
-older workers occupational injuries are said to be under-reported
-there are “potentially large increase in recoveries by Medicare/Medicaid and health insurers”

A number of these points seem debatable. But workerscompzone looks forward to the release of the text of the study in the coming moments.

Here’s the official link on the CHSWC website: … tin05.html

Stay tuned.

Julius Young

Category: Understanding the CA WC system