In late February of this year, a conference was held in Boston on workers’ compensation law. The event—organized by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI)—highlighted a number of interesting issues. The primary topic, for example, was long-term opioid misuse, the rising costs associated with this problem, and various potential solutions to it.
One other area of focus, however, was much broader: the examination of the workers’ compensation system in the state of Indiana—and the overall lowering of costs being experienced there as a result.
Indiana has a so-called “return to work” (RTW) program. And, according to several analyses, this system has contributed to significantly shorter temporary total disability (TTD) periods—the time during which an injured worker is either currently not able to return to work at all or can perform light-duty work but such work can’t be arranged by the employer. Shorter TTDs makes the system faster and cheaper from an employer’s perspective and an insurer’s perspective. And, though this can affect individual claimants negatively, cheaper costs can benefit workers overall.
RTW in Indiana is a success—as defined by speed and costliness, at least—for a number of particular reasons, including putting more power and knowledge in the hands of employers to terminate TTDs, formalizing the timetables within which workers can contest medical evaluations and disability determinations, and further defining the contours of TTDs.
Additionally, according the presenter of this segment of the conference, Indiana also has less costly permanent partial disability (PPD) claims. This is attributed to the state’s approach to impairment ratings, varied values given to the various impairments, the interplay of TTDs and PPS’s, and the involvement of attorneys at various points in the process.
Whether or not Indiana presents a model for the nation can definitely be debated—but creative and different approaches to systems as important as workers’ compensation should always be welcome and valued.
For more information about the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, see https://www.wilg.org/index.cfm?pg=MissionStatement.