Could the Affordable Care Act Lower Workers Comp Costs?

Topics: Industry News Workers' Compensation

With recent talk of reforming the US healthcare system, those interested in workers’ compensation insurance have been asking a few questions about how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” has been affected by the policy. In November 2016, the NCCI completed their study, “Impacts of the Affordable Care Act on Workers Compensation” and the results are very interesting.

What is Addressed in the Study?

Accordable Care Act on Workers Compensation

Dr. Leonard F. Herk is a Senior Economist at NCCI, and the economist who worked on the impact study. In the overview, he explains that there are two main questions he wanted to address in relation to the ACA and workers’ compensation.

The first question addressed in the study is whether the widened access to primary care has made it more difficult for workers’ compensation claimants to get in with their physicians and/or service providers. The second question addressed is whether the ACA’s promotion of population wellness would reduce the costs of workers’ compensation insurance.

Does ACA Reduce Access to Those Seeking Care?

According to Dr. Herk’s findings, the Affordable Care Act has not had any noticeable impact on the availability of service for those workers’ compensation claimants seeking care. However, it has made it possible for some 20 million people to gain medical coverage, who were unable to get access to such coverage prior to the law going into effect.

Could the ACA Lower Workers’ Compensation Medical Costs?

If the ACA is successful in its population wellness initiative to reduce the US obesity rate from 35% to 25%, then it may in fact be able to reduce the cost of workers’ compensation. The presence of certain chronic health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, can cause a person’s injuries to be more severe than they might be if that same person was a healthy weight and without the added health conditions.

For example, a healthy worker who falls off a ladder might sustain a leg injury. However, an overweight worker who falls off a ladder might suffer from a more severe leg injury, and may need additional care for hypertension while being treated for the injury.

While not always the case, obese patients often require additional care. According to the study, meeting the goals of the Affordable Care Act’s wellness initiative could lower workers’ compensation costs by around 4%.

Wellness Initiatives & Workers’ Compensation Costs

Having a healthy worker population is an excellent way to reduce the worker’s compensation claims cost for a small or medium business. Offering health incentives, such as a discounted gym membership or a free weekly fitness class, is an excellent way to invest in the health and wellness of employees.

Yoga is an excellent option, since it is low-impact and offers an abundance of health benefits. Increased flexibility, balance, and mental clarity are three common side effects of a regular yoga practice and could be beneficial to any industry.

Read the full study from the NCCI on their website.


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