Workers Compensation Draws Scrutiny in Wisconsin from Business Leaders

MacIver News Service | August 9, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] Wisconsin Labor and Business leaders on the Workers Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC) fear Workers Compensation health care costs are getting out of control, and are asking the health care industry for help reforming the system.

In a June 12th letter sent to the heads of the Wisconsin Chiropractic Association, Hospital Association, Medical Society, and Physical Therapy Association, WCAC outlined its concerns.

“Payments to health care providers now significantly exceed the cost of providing indemnity benefits to injured workers. As a result we believe that some system has to be devised to bring these costs under control,” the letter read.

During previous WCAC meetings, business and labor leaders proposed a plan to help contain costs, but it was rejected by health care representatives. They asked the council to delay any action until later in the year, after they had a chance to come up with alternative plans. The council agreed to put the issue on hold until September 6th.

However, in the meantime, it appears the legislature caught wind of the problem and held a joint hearing at the end of July. Health care industry representatives, with the help of the Department of Workforce Development, tried to convince lawmakers there is no problem with the current Workers Compensation system.

DWD does not keep updated data on Workers Compensation claims on its website and so it had to draw from outside sources like the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) and the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI).

DWD pointed to a statistic from the NCCI that ranks Wisconsin 37th out of 45 jurisdictions for average cost per workers compensation claim. (New York was 1st with about $29,000 a case, while Wisconsin averaged $10,000).

“Wisconsin’s pioneering worker’s compensation system offers reasonable benefits, efficient service delivery and low cost to employers and is frequently recognized as a national model,” John Fandrich, Assistant Deputy Secretary of DWD pointed out during his presentation on July 31st to lawmakers.

The Wisconsin Chiropractic Association stated it “believes the current system of reimbursement is effective and fair.”

The Wisconsin Physical Therapy Association cited studies from WCRI that stated “We return our injured workers 3 weeks sooner than the median state,” in support of the current system.

“WPTA would like to suggest that we carefully study any changes in our current Worker’s Compensation System; fully considering how cost containment might be carefully applied to a system that is out performing other states in nearly ALL key measures,” the Association’s written testimony stated.

The Workers Compensation Advisory Council will meet again on September 17th at 10 am.