Workers' compensation in the United States: high costs, low benefits
Studies suggest that income replacement is low for many workers with serious occupational injuries and illnesses. This review discusses three areas that hold promise for raising benefits to workers while reducing workers' compensation costs to employers: improving safety, containing medical costs, and reducing litigation. In theory, workers' compensation increases the costs to employers of injuries and so provides incentives to improve safety. Yet, taken as a whole, research does not provide convincing evidence that workers' compensation reduces injury rates. Moreover, unlike safety and health regulation, workers' compensation focuses the attention of employers on individual workers. High costs may lead employers to discourage claims and litigate when claims are filed. Controlling medical costs can reduce workers' compensation costs. Most studies, however, have focused on costs and have not addressed the effectiveness of medical care or patient satisfaction. Research also has shown that workers' compensation systems can reduce the need for litigation. Without litigation, benefits can be delivered more quickly and at lower costs.
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