The employer is expected to maintain responsibility for health care expenses and lost income that result from occupational injury and illness through the workers' compensation insurance system. However, financial support for individuals with occupational illnesses, especially those with long latency, is often from sources other than workers' compensation. Silicosis, a well defined, chronic, occupational lung disease, can be viewed as a sentinel for the inadequacy of the public policy to compensate workers for chronic occupational lung disease. Three hundred twenty-nine patients with confirmed silicosis were identified by the silicosis surveillance program in the New Jersey Department of Health using source data from 1979 through 1992. One hundred seventy-seven of these individuals provided information on the status of any compensation claims against their employer. Only 31% of these patients stated that a claim had been filed; 84 % of those whose claims were settled were awarded payments. Severity of radiologic findings was not associated with the likelihood of filing a claim or with being awarded a payment; whereas, smoking was associated with these outcomes. The implications of these findings for the health care system are discussed.
©1995The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine