Some Workplace Injury Costs Extend For Decades, NCCI Report Shows

Two categories of services, drugs and home services, increase significantly between early and late-term care, it shows.

A new report from the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) says it is likely that more than 10 percent of the cost of medical benefits for workplace injuries occurring this year will be for services provided more than 20 years from now. The percentage has been rising and may continue to rise, according to the authors.

The study, "Medical Services for Claims 20 or More Years Old," looked at workers' compensation medical services provided beyond 20 years after the injury to understand which medical service categories will account for the largest shares of the costs and which future treatment and utilization will drive those costs.

Key findings include that the patients requiring late-term services (provided 20 or more years after the injury) are predominantly male -- "more so than can be explained by historical gender differences in the workforce," it says -- and that deteriorating medical conditions of the oldest claimants is not a main cost driver. Claimants younger than 60 cost more per year, per claimant, to treat older ones.

Late-term care also has a significantly greater portion of cost going for prescription medications, supplies, home health services, and for maintenance of implants, orthotics, and prosthetics, the authors found.

A chart in the report shows which types of medical conditions are most associated with the need for late-term services. Leading the list are diseases of the musculoskeletal system. OxyContin is the top drug in terms of share of workers' comp medication costs in late-term care, at 11.3 percent, and it also topped the list during service year 2009, the report states.

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