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Health Services Research (1)
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Himmelstein, J (2)
Buchanan, J L (1)
Dembe, A E (1)
Rest, K (1)
Stevens, B (1)
Year of Publication
Health services research in workers' compensation medical care: policy issues and research opportunities.
Buchanan, J L
Dembe, A E
Health Services Research
1999;34(1 Pt 2):427-437.
OBJECTIVE: To describe some of the unique aspects of medical care offered under workers' compensation insurance systems and discuss the major policy considerations relevant to health services researchers undertaking investigations in this area. BACKGROUND AND FINDINGS: State-based workers' compensation (WC) insurance systems requiring employers to pay for medical care and wage replacement for workplace injuries and illnesses were first developed between 1910 and 1920 in the United States. Employers are generally required to purchase state-regulated workers' compensation insurance that includes first-dollar payment for all medical and rehabilitative services and payment of lost wages to workers with work-related illness or injury. Injured workers have variable but usually limited latitude in choosing their health care provider. Employers and workers' compensation insurers have incentives for controlling both the cost of medical care and lost wages. CONCLUSION: The major policy issues in WC medical care--the effect of patient choice of provider and delivery system structure, the ensuring of high-quality care, the effect of integrating benefits, and investigation of the interrelationships between work, health, and productivity--can be informed by current studies in health services research and by targeted future studies of workers' compensation populations. These studies must consider the extent of patient choice of physician, the regulatory environment, the unique role of the workplace as a risk and modifying factor, and the complex interaction between health and disability insurance benefits.
Working on reform. How workers' compensation medical care is affected by health care reform.
Public Health Reports
The medical component of workers' compensation programs-now costing over $24 billion annually-and the rest of the nation's medical care system are linked. They share the same patients and providers. They provide similar benefits and services. And they struggle over who should pay for what. Clearly, health care reform and restructuring will have a major impact on the operation and expenditures of the workers' compensation system. For a brief period, during the 1994 national health care reform debate, these two systems were part of the same federal policy development and legislative process. With comprehensive health care reform no longer on the horizon, states now are tackling both workers' compensation and medical system reforms on their own. This paper reviews the major issues federal and state policy makers face as they consider reforms affecting the relationship between workers' compensation and traditional health insurance. What is the relationship of the workers' compensation cost crisis to that in general health care? What strategies are being considered by states involved in reforming the medical component of workers compensation? What are the major policy implications of these strategies?
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