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Study: Medical care often costs more under workers' compensation

When Connecticut workers are injured on the job, they can apply for workers' compensation benefits to help them with medical expenses, lost wages and some of the other costs that come with injury. Still, workers' compensation benefits generally come in predetermined amounts, and those amounts may turn out to be insufficient to cover all the injured workers' needs during recovery and recuperation.

One recent study hinted at a problem that underlies many cases where the benefits going to injured workers are insufficient. The Workers Compensation Research Institute looked at medical bills and workers' compensation benefits from 16 states in the year 2008 and found that medical procedures often cost more when workers' compensation benefits are paying for them.

The 16 states together account for about 60 percent of the workers' compensation benefits paid each year in the United States. Connecticut was not included. In most of the states, the amount paid to health care providers for certain procedures is regulated by the government. In five of the states, the amount is unregulated, meaning that the amount paid was negotiated by workers' compensation insurers and health care providers. In these states, the cost of procedures covered by workers' compensation was especially high. Some health care providers in these states charged more than twice as much for the same procedures when they were paid for by workers' compensation as when they were paid by private insurers.

Connecticut's workers' compensation system can have different problems. Often, employers can decide what doctors their employees will see. As a result, the medical providers are somewhat beholden to the employers, and may even work primarily for the employer's interest. Injured workers sometimes get sent back to work before they're ready, and sometimes don't get all the treatment they need. It's important for workers to understand how to make their claims under the system and how to go about receiving the benefits they deserve.

Source: South Bend Tribune, "Study: Procedures often cost more under workers' comp," Richard Newman, July 1, 2013

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