Category Archives: Health & Safety

Obesity Epidemic

A report just published by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) confirms the continuing alarming rise in adult obesity rates across the U.S. According to its findings, rates of adult obesity now exceed 25 percent in 19 states, an increase from 14 states last year and nine in 2005. Mississippi – at 30.6 percent – topped the list with the highest rate of adult obesity in the country for the third year in a row. Ten of the 15 states with the highest rates of adult obesity are located in the South. Even Colorado (the leanest state again this year) recorded an increase in its adult obesity rate over the past year from 16.9 to 17.6 percent. Of even more interest, a new public opinion survey within the report found that 85 percent of Americans believe that obesity is an epidemic. At the same time, 81 percent of Americans believe the government should have a role in addressing the obesity crisis. If any  further incentive was needed, the report also found that the rates of overweight children (ages 10 to 17) ranged from a high of 22.8 percent in Washington, D.C. to a low of 8.5 percent in Utah. Eight of the 10 states with the highest rates of overweight children were in the South. Among its recommendations for combating obesity, TFAH notes that federal, state and local governments should work with private employers and insurers to ensure that every working American has access to a workplace wellness program. As always, we welcome your comments. Check out further information from the I.I.I. on obesity.  Ã‚  

Workplace Safety Focus

We blogged recently (see Aug 6 posting) about the continued declining claims frequency for workers comp injuries in 2006. A PowerPoint report by I.I.I. president Robert Hartwig, presented at the 62nd Annual Workers Compensation Educational Conference in Orlando, Florida, earlier this week, offers further details on the state of the workers comp line. Dr. Hartwig notes that workers comp insurers should be justifiably proud of the historical role they have played in reducing workers’ injuries. In fact, workers comp insurers and the entire workplace safety community have contributed to a 14 percent decline in workplace fatalities since 1994. Further, the rate of fatal work injuries continues to drop and is down 26.4 percent since 1994 – nearly double the 14 percent decline in the number of on the job fatalities. The report underlines that workers comp insurers are a major force in saving workers lives, increasing productivity and preserving worker incomes. For additional data on workers comp insurance, access Mega-Trends Influencing the Workers Compensation Insurance Industry online.

Two Sides to Workers Comp

The saying that there are two sides to every story really resonates in workers compensation and the latest research brief from the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). On the one hand workers, employers and their insurers can take comfort from the fact that the decline in claim frequency for workers compensation injuries continued into 2006 and continues to be widespread. For example, NCCI notes that all geographic regions of the country experienced significant declines over the last five years and despite some variation the decline in claim frequency occurred in all major industry groups across almost all occupations. But while workers comp claim frequency is down, NCCI cautions that indemnity and medical severities continue to rise. Indemnity severity increased by an estimated 5.5 percent in 2006, while the estimated rise in medical costs for 2006 is 7.5 percent. Medical price inflation and the utilization of medical services (including prescription drugs) are significant drivers of this trend, according to NCCI. What do you think? Check out further I.I.I. facts and stats on workers comp.  

Back Pains Large States

Employee back problems are frequent and costly. That’s the upshot of a new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI). The report analyzes data from 14 large states (AR, CA, FL, IL, IN, LA, MA, MD, MI, NC, PA, TN, TX, and WI) from claims with an average of three years’ experience. WCRI found that nearly 14 percent of medical costs were paid to treat workers with back conditions involving disc conditions or radicular symptoms (e.g. radiating pain into the limbs). Nonspecific low back pain accounted for about one in seven claims and 11 percent of medical payments. Conditions involving the neck accounted for nearly 4 percent of claims and nearly 8 percent of medical payments. WCRI also found that shoulder or arm conditions – both inflammation due to overuse as well as sprains and strains – accounted for a significant share of medical costs and claims. For example, sprains and strains represented close to 7 percent of medical payments and nearly 6 percent of costs. Another interesting stat, carpal tunnel conditions were diagnosed in about 1 percent of cases, but accounted for more than 3 percent of medical costs. We’re wincing just thinking about it. Check our further I.I.I. information on workers compensation and workplace safety.  

Health Study

While we’re on the subject of take-up rates, a just released RAND Corp study finds that price is not the only barrier in the decision to purchase health insurance. The study contradicts suggestions that large numbers of people without health insurance would sign up for coverage if government provided subsidies or tax credits to reduce the cost of health insurance. An estimated 45 million Americans don’t have health insurance, but government subsidies that would halve the price of health insurance would reduce that number by just 3 percent, according to RAND. Apparently, people surveyed for the study cited numerous factors influencing their decision to purchase individual health policies, including: personal attitudes toward risk; whether they believe they can get good health care without insurance; perceived difficulty in selecting a health care plan; and even concern that insurers require too much personal information for individual plans compared with group plans. So, price alone does not solve the take-up issue. I.I.I. has further info on health insurance online.  Ã‚  

Red White and Blue

Tomorrow is July 4th, a holiday along with Thanksgiving when us Brits residing in the U.S. generally run for the woods and hide under a rock. After all, it’s not exactly a time to be proud to be British. Personal sensibilities aside, on the eve of the 2007 Independence Day celebrations and in light of the substantial fire risk posed by fireworks, we feel bound to bring you some red white and blue safety tips. The Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks, a group of 22 health and safety organizations coordinated by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) urges families to think twice about home-grown fireworks shows, noting that even legal consumer fireworks pose significant risks. NFPA stats reveal that in 2005, some 10,800 people were treated at hospital emergency rooms for firework-related injuries. The NFPA also warns that this year’s severe nationwide drought raises the fire risk. Fireworks cause approximately 25,000 grass, brush, dumpster and other fires each year. In 2004, fireworks started an estimated 1,600 structure fires and 600 vehicle fires which were reported to local fire departments, costing $21 million in direct property damage, says the NFPA. Meanwhile, if you are planning on holding your own fireworks display, the National Council on Fireworks Safety recommends that you only buy fireworks from a licensed store or stand, never from an individual’s house or from someone on the street. It urges people to prepare a designated spectator area that is far enough away from the shooting area site. It’s also important to obey all local laws regarding fireworks. Five states (DE, MA, NJ, NY, and RI) ban the use of fireworks by consumers. Have a safe and happy holiday!

Averting Obesity Suits

An interesting announcement by the world’s largest cereal maker today. Kellogg Co. is raising the nutritional value of the cereals and snacks it markets to children and will no longer promote foods in TV, radio, print or online ads to children under age 12 unless a single serving of the product meets the following standards: no more than 200 calories; no trans fat; no more than 2 grams of saturated fat; no more than 230 milligrams of sodium; no more than 12 grams of sugar. The company is also introducing new front-of-pack nutrition labeling. The move, which comes amid growing concerns on childhood obesity, effectively averts a lawsuit that had been threatened by parents and nutrition advocacy groups in January 2006. A recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) study found that highly sugared cereal accounts for 84 percent of children’s exposure to ads for cereal, while candy accounts for 52 percent of children’s exposure to ads for desserts and sweets. Check out I.I.I.’s report on Obesity, Liability and Insurance and info on the liability system.  Ã‚  

  

Workers Comp and 9/11

Late last week NCCI Holdings released its annual “State of the Line” workers compensation market analysis showing that the 2006 calendar year combined ratio was 96.5 percent, the best underwriting result in at least 30 years and the first underwriting profit for the line since 1995. Although the underwriting results are the best in decades, NCCI did flag some critical issues that continue to face the sector in the long-term. Among them, skyrocketing medical costs, low investment returns, a changing political landscape and the projection that the underwriting cycle is likely at its peak. On a day in which illnesses suffered by Ground Zero workers have again made the headlines, we’d like to flag another emerging issue — the latent illnesses and disease among first responders to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. New York City officials estimate the treatment costs for those suffering respiratory illnesses is already in the hundreds of millions of dollars and that other illnesses such as cancer may eventually be linked to the disaster. For more information on workers compensation check out I.I.I.’s update.

Obesity and Workers Comp

It’s well-documented that the health consequences of overweight and obesity are serious. For example, individuals who are obese have a significantly increased risk of premature death and chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The growing economic and social costs of obesity also have direct consequences for insurers. A study out of Duke University this week focuses on the impact on workers comp insurers. It notes that obese employees lost many more workdays and filed twice as many workers comp claims as other workers. Even more concerning, the claims filed by obese workers cost nearly seven times as much as those filed by other workers. The average workers comp medical claims cost per 100 employees was $51,019 for obese workers, compared with $7,503 for other workers. Check out further information from the I.I.I. on obesity and workers comp.