Aging “Baby Boomers” and Workers’ Compensation (Part 2)

baby boomers at workLast week, we brought you Part 1 of a post from our colleague Tom Domer of Wisconsin about some of the NCCI’s interesting conclusions about the implications of “Baby Boomers” in the workplace. In today’s post, we bring you part 2, which discussed these conclusions in more detail.

The frequency of injury has steadily declined since the mid-1990s, with age group differences in frequency largely eliminated.  The decline in frequency has occurred for all age groups.  The differences among age groups in the early 1990s had almost completely disappeared by 2010.

A longstanding worker’s compensation maxim that “younger workers have much higher injury rates” is no longer true.  For example: the injury rate for workers age 55-64 was 16% lower than the frequency for all workers in the mid-1990s but actually 1% higher in 2010, indicating that the differences have clearly narrowed.

Lastly, in terms of severity of claims, older workers certainly cost more, primarily due to higher wages and increased medical costs for older workers.  The severity of medical costs for the 55-64 age group was 25% above average in 1995 but only 17% above average in 2008.  Even those differences have narrowed.  Simply put, the medical severity was more than 50% higher for older workers.

In terms of types of injuries suffered, older workers seemed to experience rotator cuff and knee injuries and lower back nerve pain (lumbosacral neuritis) while younger workers were more likely to have sprains and lower back pain.

In terms of time lost, the average temporary duration was 53 days for the 20-34 age workers and 66 days for the 45-64 age workers (a 25% difference).  Average treatments per claim averaged 44 for the 20-34 age workers and 58 for the 45-64 age workers, while the average temporary benefits paid per day was $42 for the 20-34 age and $53 for the 45-64 age workers.  Average cost per treatment was $117 for the 20-34 age workers and $126 for the 45-64 age workers.

In conclusion, the differences in frequency of injury rates by age have diminished while differences in severity of cost by age have continued.  Older workers generally tend to have higher loss costs per worker, but the term “older” seems to start with age 35, since all groups of workers age 35 to 64 have similar costs per worker.  Overall, an aging workforce may have less negative impact on loss costs than originally thought.

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