Evaluation of workers' compensation costs & benefit changes since the beginning of the reforms
In 1995, the Commission initiated a project to determine the impact of the workers' compensation reform legislation on the workers' compensation vocational rehabilitation program.
The primary objective was to measure the impact of the reform changes on the vocational rehabilitation program. A model was developed to get baseline information that will provide comparative data in future years regarding the number of workers undergoing vocational rehabilitation, the duration and costs of rehabilitation programs and services and the results produced by those programs and services.
Questions addressed include:
Did the reforms reduce the costs of the VR benefit for employers?
How have changes affected outcomes for injured workers?
Recent results indicate that the reform efforts apparently achieved one major goal, to encourage more employers to offer modified or alternate (M/A) work and to pay these workers at or near their pre-injury wage. Offers of M/A work increased by 50% to include nearly one third of qualified injured workers. At the same time, nearly 80% of these workers received wages that were at least 85% of the pre-injury level and nearly 60% received wages equal to or greater than the pre-injury level.
The costs of the rehabilitation benefit declined dramatically as a result of reform. At the same time, outcomes for qualified injured workers, as measured by work status and several income measures are virtually identical despite this decrease in overall benefit costs.