23rd December, 2014

How does age impact on workers compensation?

What effect does age have on your team's workers compensation insurance claims? According to the latest report from the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), the age of the injured worker does have a significant impact, but perhaps not in the way you might think.

The study, which examined treatments carried out in 2011 and 2012 for injuries sustained 20 to 30 years earlier, found that claimants younger than 60 consistently required more expensive services than their older counterparts.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers focussed on a number of included costs associated with serious, long-term workers compensation claims, including:

  • Number of treatments required
  • Overall prices paid for medical services
  • Injury type 
  • Prescription medication use

The survey revealed that on average, the cost of late-term medical services each year typically decreased as the claimant aged. Generally, this was influenced by the number of treatments per claim, rather than the cost of each service.

Average annual medical costs per claim were about 60 per cent higher for claimants born after 1950 than for older individuals. About 80 per cent of this difference is related to the mix of injuries being treated (60 per cent) and the use of prescription drugs (20 per cent).

Interestingly, younger workers were more likely to make long-term compensation claims based on quadriplegic and paraplegic injuries. Additionally, the cost of medication increased with both age and time passed after the injury.

For medical services rendered within 20 years of an injury, drug costs typically only account for 10 per cent of the overall expenses. Conversely, when services are required 20 to 30 years after an accident, medication accounts for 40 per cent of the total costs.

This could be partially attributed to the fact that late-term care typically has an emphasis on relieving pain, rather than curing the condition.

Age not a factor in Australia

While age may impact on the cost of long-term medical claims, it is not considered a significant influence on the rate of injuries among Australian workers.

The Australian Workers Compensation Statistics 2011-12 report from Safe Work Australia outlined the ages of workers most likely to sustain an injury and make a claim.

In Australia, tradespeople and related workers make 18.7 serious claims on workers compensation per 1,000 employees. Generally, the average age of a worker likely to make a serious claim is 42 years old, with the largest incidence rate occurring for those aged 50-54.

Younger workers are not exempt, however, with those under 20 more likely to make a serious claim per hours worked than those aged between 20 and 39, (6.9 claims per million hours worked, compared with 5.5, respectively).

With such high rates of injuries among workers of all ages, it is vital that all employers and self-employed individuals protect themselves and their staff with adequate workers compensation insurance. For more information, talk to Trade Essentials today.

Author: Murray Bruce