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Workers' Compensation Benefits and Shifting Costs for Occupational Injury and Illness

Leigh, J. Paul PhD; Marcin, James P. MD, MPH

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: April 2012 - Volume 54 - Issue 4 - p 445–450
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3182451e54
Original Articles

Background: Whereas national prevalence estimates for workers' compensation benefits are available, incidence estimates are not. Moreover, few studies address which groups in the economy pay for occupational injury and illness when workers' compensation does not.

Methods: Data on numbers of cases and costs per case were drawn from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and National Council on Compensation Insurance data sets. Costs not covered by workers' compensation were estimated for private and public entities.

Results: Total benefits in 2007 were estimated to be $51.7 billion, with $29.8 billion for medical benefits and $21.9 billion for indemnity benefits. For medical costs not covered by workers' compensation, other (non–workers' compensation) insurance covered $14.22 billion, Medicare covered $7.16 billion, and Medicaid covered $5.47 billion.

Conclusion: Incidence estimates of national benefits for workers' compensation were generated by combining existing published data. Costs were shifted to workers and their families, non–workers' compensation insurance carriers, and governments.

From the Center for Healthcare Policy and Research (Drs Leigh and Marcin), and Departments of Public Health Sciences (Dr Leigh) and Pediatrics (Dr Marcin), University of California Davis School of Medicine, Davis, Calif.

Address correspondence to: J. Paul Leigh, PhD, Department of Public Health Sciences, UC Davis Medical School, One Shields Ave. Davis, CA 95616. Email:

Disclosure: First author acknowledges partial support from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (OH008248-01 and U54OH007550).

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

©2012The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine