Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Triple-I
The workers compensation field is “responding and adapting remarkably well to economic changes,” according to Donna Glenn, chief actuary, National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). “The pandemic brought new occupational illnesses into the system, but it was offset by a reduction of other types of claims back in 2020.”
Glenn made her comments in a new Executive Exchange with Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan. She noted that the workers comp industry was in a strong position before the pandemic and, consequently, in its aftermath. This includes seven years of underwriting profitability.
“Strong employment and wages are on the rise, fueling the workers comp system,” Glenn said. “The strength of the labor market is awesome.”
Kevelighan and Glenn noted that changing labor patterns will also affect workers comp claims frequency.
“Frequency declined in 2020 because of the business shutdowns,” Glenn said. “When workers returned, claims activity came back. However, remote work is decreasing overall claim frequency. This is the new normal.”
They also discussed the potential for rising medical costs.
“Medical costs have been fairly stable, but some are talking about medical costs exploding out of control again,” Kevelighan said.
“Medical prices are up,” Glenn agreed, adding that medical inflation “is tame compared to general inflation. The medical industry has benefited from regulation, including medical fee schedules, treatment guidelines and prescription drug formularies, which contribute significantly to the cost-control system in workers comp.”
Further, fewer procedures are happening in hospitals. Instead, they’re happening in an outpatient environment or ambulatory service center.
Glenn observed that physical therapy and the decrease in use of opioids has also helped. However, she signaled that there may be emerging issues with mental health.
“PTSD, particularly with first responders, comes up with workers comp,” she said. “But mental health is much broader than PTSD. We have to be very mindful of how we take care of workers.”