A Glance at Workers’ Compensation for 2017

A new year means new workers’ compensation claims, standards, and trends in Georgia. Workers continue to show concern about the state’s workers’ comp laws, while employers worry about associated insurance costs. In the changing political climate and new platforms regarding national healthcare, many major elements of the workers’ comp system are up in the air. Here are a few predicted workers’ compensation trends to look out for.

Rising Premiums

In 2016, the state of Georgia saw 7,162 workers’ compensation claims, leading to $256,861,896 paid in medical bills and additional compensation. The costs of these claims and lost days at work result in higher insurance premiums across nearly every industry. For companies with more than 100 employees, workers’ comp insurance is a hefty expense – especially for labor-based employers with high-risk job tasks. A higher number of claims results in higher insurance premiums. An aging workforce and the rising costs of prescription medications both contribute to the rising cost of workers’ compensation insurance.

Opioid Misuse and Abuse Costs

Issues regarding prescription medications – namely painkillers, or opioids – have had an effect on workers’ compensation insurance. In recent years, prescription drugs have become the cause of more overdose deaths than illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. The Georgia General Assembly passed the Pain Management Clinic Act in 2013 in an effort to combat illegal prescription drug mills. The Office of Attorney General Chris Carr has published information about prescription drug abuse as a key issue for GA government.

The growing prescription drug epidemic and poor pharmaceutical management has added to workers’ compensation costs. Many workers’ compensation insurance carriers are now mandating a weaning plan at the onset of opioid prescriptions for claimants to try to reduce the rate of addiction. There is an upcharge when patients receive drugs from a physician’s onsite pharmacy instead of going to a local pharmacy to fill a prescription. This increased price is also contributing to higher workers’ compensations costs in 2017.

New Technologies

On a positive note, innovative new technologies may help injured employees receive faster, more efficient medical care in 2017. New patient tracking programs and the practice of telemedicine are improving healthcare around the country. Telemedicine is an especially important development for industries with employees who work inconvenient hours. Instead of having to pay extra to visit an emergency room during off-business hours, injured employees can now speak to a licensed physician on the phone or via video chat to receive advice and treatment information right away.

Faster and more convenient medical care for Georgia’s employees means the possible prevention of more serious health problems down the road. It can also mean getting injured workers back on their feet faster, reducing missed days at work and the costs of lost productivity. Better medical technologies are helping workers’ comp carriers keep costs down.

Safer Workplaces

In 2016, the Department of Labor issued the final rules for Executive Order 13673: Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces. This order aims to ensure that contractors provide their workers with basic protections and comply with labor laws, in hopes to avoid workers’ compensation cases in Georgia. This executive order directs contractors to disclose any labor law violations. On top of this order, other organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are issuing new and improved wellness and worker safety programs across all industries.

Thanks to more advanced data collection and analytics capabilities, OSHA can keep track of high-risk workplace conditions and put measures in place that address the most common sources of worker injury and wrongful death. As long as employers abide by the rules and don’t become complacent, safety programs in high-risk industries such as construction may help reduce the number of accidental injuries and deaths on the job in 2017 – good news for America’s workforce.

In the event that you are injured at work, contact a licensed personal injury lawyer today and learn more about how the law can be utilized to protect your interests.