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Injured workers with health benefits return to work quicker: WCRI

Injured workers with employer-sponsored health insurance experience somewhat quicker recovery and higher rates of return to work, according to a study released Tuesday by the Workers Compensation Research Institute.

In Health Insurance and Outcomes of Injured Workers, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based WCRI found that injured workers with health insurance received evaluation and management services more quickly, experienced higher rates of satisfaction with their primary providers and had lower rates of hiring an attorney for their workers comp claims.

Employees who have health insurers has increased over the past decade from about 84% in 2008 to about 90% in 2017, according to the study, with the largest jumps occurring with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

In the study, WCRI researchers surveyed injured workers in 15 states. Of those surveyed, 82% reported that they had health insurance at the time of their work-related injuries, with a low of 71% of workers with health benefits at the time of their injury in Florida and a high of 88% in Massachusetts. About 10% received their benefits from a family member, and 63% said their health care coverage was employer sponsored.  

For injured workers, those with health benefits showed a 2.5% higher return-to-work and returned to substantial work on average one week faster than workers without health insurance.

However, the researchers reported very little difference between the likelihood of workers reporting problems obtaining medical services or in the nature of the care received between individuals with health benefits and those without.