The world changes, but recently, it seems to be changing faster than usual.
And knowing what workers’ compensation trends are to come is crucial to stay afloat and continue serving the public with care.
Between political shifts, the remnants of a global pandemic, and the industry’s continual push towards progress, workers’ comp providers have a lot to look out for in the next couple of years.
1. The Russia-Ukraine Invasion’s Impact on Healthcare
As the world condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, countries continue to ban imports from Russia. In early March, President Biden banned the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal to the United States.
At the same time, delays in transportation routes and spiked gas prices that increase transportation costs make it more challenging to receive imports from Ukraine and nearby areas.
How does this affect our healthcare system?
While our hospitals, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies don’t directly import medical supplies from Russia or Ukraine, their providers rely on raw material imports from these countries.
Since the supply chain shortage is indirect, the effect won’t be immediate. However, the U.S. healthcare system may experience shortages and increased prices further down the road.
2. Greater Coverage Amidst the Biden Administration
In January of 2022, Biden’s American Rescue Plan resulted in a record number of health insurance sign-ups. Approximately 14.5 million people signed up for coverage—5.8 million of which are newly covered. This increase in insured workers will likely impact workers’ compensation claim statistics.
Providers will also want to prepare for a possible drop-off in the number of covered workers in the future.
The American Rescue Plan played a significant role in sign-up growth by drastically reducing health insurance premiums. But the American Rescue Plan won’t be around forever, and there is not yet anything passed to keep those premiums down when that happens.
3. Telehealth Is Here to Stay and Better Than Ever
The pandemic ushered in the era of telemedicine, and now it’s here to stay. Although telehealth usage has declined since the initial spike towards the beginning of the pandemic, use has stabilized at levels 38 times higher than before the pandemic.
When hospitals were slammed and people were scared to catch the virus by venturing out of their homes, telemedicine was there to pick up the burden.
Businesses and people were forced to adapt to telehealth faster than they usually would have, but once they adopted the technology, they learned the convenience was worth holding onto.
Now, it’s common to talk to a doctor on the phone from the comfort of home.
And, for some, it remains a necessity. Those who don’t have time to drive to the office or the means of transportation have a new level of accessibility they never did. Accessibility is also offered to non-English speakers as telemedicine provides service in different languages—a medical requirement many offices have yet to initiate.
Workers’ comp providers should keep telehealth services in mind when managing claims, as well as accessibility practices like language interpretation for claims.
4. Concerns of COVID-19 as a Comorbidity
One of the concerning facets of COVID-19 is the occurrence of long COVID and how little we know about it at this time.
Long COVID is the excessive length of certain COVID-19 symptoms or the appearance of symptoms weeks after infection. Long-COVID symptoms range from minor to major and include loss of smell and taste, brain fog, fatigue, and even new heart and kidney conditions.
Healthcare providers and workers’ comp workers should be aware of the possibility that long-COVID symptoms could function as a comorbidity in medical claims in the future.
5. Employer Vaccine Requirements and Liability
Many employers have or are considering implementing vaccine mandates to protect their employees and customers. It’s essential to understand what this means if you work with claims or advise businesses on safety procedures.
Currently, employers can be held liable for vaccine side effects if an employee gets the vaccine due to a work mandate. That said, liability is limited, and side effects are not a concern for most employers.
Vaccine side effects are usually minor and don’t require treatment. Severe side effects are rare, which is why the vaccine was approved in the first place.
6. Growing Remote Work Opportunities
More people are working from home than ever. Even as life returns to normal, many offices have learned that remote works for them, and jobs that weren’t remote before may now permanently stay that way.
The move to remote work means that workers’ comp professionals should prepare for a possible shift in claims management. Employers are still required to compensate employees who are injured at home while doing work tasks, and a home work environment threatens different types of injuries—namely those of ergonomic origin.
If you make safety recommendations to employers, consider implementing procedures for ergonomic workstations at home. Employees are more likely to sustain back, neck, and wrist injuries working from the couch than sitting at a desk in a proper chair.
7. An Aging Workforce
The U.S. workforce is an aging one. Workers live longer and work longer, and many haven’t saved properly for retirement.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The only age group whose labor force participation rate is projected to rise [by 2030] are people age 75 and older.”
As people age, injuries are more impactful and take longer to heal. Thus, workers’ comp providers might anticipate an increase in claims costs and the amount of time out of work after an injury.
8. The Shift Towards Patient Centricity
The shift towards patient centricity in workers’ compensation isn’t a new trend, but it continues to gain momentum. At its core, it’s about putting the patient-first and personalizing care to maximize results. With a focus on results, patients receive better care, which decreases claims costs and time out of work.
Improvements in claims management processes and technology continue to push the patient-centricity trend forward.
Take Action Where You Can
Some of these workers’ compensation trends have already shown their colors, while the full implications of others will only make themselves known with time. Think about how you can act on these trends, and keep an eye on them as they progress.
At minimum, you can prepare. At most, you can be one of the first to adopt new methods to succeed in these changing times.