Sean Cooper and Raji Chadarevian discussed a number of potential workers compensation (WC) game changers, examining the impacts they could have on our WC system including:
- Autonomous vehicles
- The gig economy
- Universal healthcare
The world is changing quickly. Technology is transforming the way businesses operate. The healthcare system as we know it is being challenged. By acknowledging these potential game changers now, the industry can adapt to face the challenges and benefits these changes could bring.
From truck drivers to salespeople, millions of workers are facing the risk of motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) as part of their daily work. Automobile safety has come a long way, but MVAs continue to be prevalent in workers comp. If most MVAs are due to human error, will autonomous vehicles help reduce their frequency? Due to the significant cost associated with MVAs, a reduction in their frequency would result in significant WC savings.
The Gig Economy
The gig economy has been touted as transforming the traditional employer/employee relationship. A shift of primary employment to gig work could significantly reduce WC exposure if gig workers are not classified as employees. Lacking data and inconsistent definitions has led to widely varying conclusions across studies on the current size and the future outlook for gig work. An analysis of self-employed workers reveals that the gig economy hasn’t taken over yet. The future of the gig economy remains uncertain and will likely be strongly influenced by court decisions and legislation around worker classification.
Telehealth is typically the use of electronic communication technologies between a patient and a healthcare provider in different locations. In addition to remote doctor appointments, telehealth includes the use of devices that can monitor and, in some cases, transmit patient vital signs. Technological advancements in these remote patient monitoring devices could result in more precise measurement and storage of a person’s biometrics, blood pressure, body positioning and movements, weight load, etc. More generally, wearables could be used for similar purposes and in loss prevention, but that technology is still emerging.
To date, telehealth has not been used on a wide scale, especially in workers comp. In the future, an expansive use of telehealth in workers comp would create a paradigm shift in how medical treatment is delivered, potentially leading to a curtailment in emergency room visits, a reduction in rehospitalizations, and a shift in how and where physical therapy exercises and activities are performed.
Universal healthcare has been a much-discussed topic in the United States for several decades. However, many of the proposals do not clearly spell out the role of WC insurers in paying for injured workers’ medical treatment. Some proposals would remove medical expenses from the WC system entirely. Less radical changes such as the adoption of a Canadian model that would keep WC insurance as the primary payer for medical services would likely bring about price controls, integration of care, and healthcare coverage for all, with the potential to significantly reduce WC medical benefit costs.
NCCI will continue to monitor the potential cost impacts of these game changers to the WC system.