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Sep
5

Montana’s progress on work comp

I was invited to speak at Montana’s annual Governor’s Conference on Work Comp, and came away with a few brief but telling impressions.

  • Governor Steve Bullock actually came and spoke to the 300+ attendees, and he knew what he was talking about.  Impressive.
  • Lieutenant Governor John Walsh is heavily involved in comp, is quite knowledgeable and leads the Labor Management Activity Council.
  • The LMAC leaders spent an hour fielding questions from attendees, seeking feedback on recent reforms, asking what can be done better, and listening hard to any and all comments.

Several years ago, Montana’s work comp costs were the highest in the nation.  Now, they’ve dropped substantially, driven by frequency as well as decreases in indemnity expenses.  Perhaps the best news is their medical costs have inched up a mere 2 percent over the last three years, this while the rest of the nation has seen about a ten point jump.

The reforms, which include adoption of evidence-based medical guidelines, closing of medical after five years, and changes to wage-loss payments, have made a big difference. But they would not be nearly as effective if not for the State’s ongoing commitment to make sure they are implemented correctly, changed when needed, and supported by stakeholders.

They aren’t all the way there; but the folks from Big Sky Country are well on the way.

 


5 thoughts on “Montana’s progress on work comp”

  1. Medical severity has been less than 10% for past few years. Per NCCI medical increased +5.7% between 2002 and 2011.

    1. Carl – thanks for the note. I”m not sure what you’re referring to; severity in MT or nationally. The latest SOL report from NCCI indicates trend averaged 5.7% annually; this is consistent with my observation that MT’s severity increase – at 2 percent TOTAL over the last three years is much lower than the national average of 5.7% PER YEAR.

  2. Montana also went to employer-choice of physician in 2011. This was important since they adopted treatment guidelines from Colorado, which is also employer-choice.

  3. Joe,
    You mentioned ‘closing of medical after 5 years”. Does the injured worker (if they have money or insurance) or teh taxpayers (as in you and I) take over paying for medical care from the effects of work injuries after 5 years?

  4. The closing of medical after 5 years is with the exceptions for Perm Totals, prosthetics and if the individual needs continued treatment to remain at work. On the latter point, after 5 years they would need to demonstrate the need to a panel of Docs who would make the decision. Theoretically, treatment could continue for life, if necessary. Since we will not see the first case until after 7/1/16, we don’t know yet how many cases will be brought to the panel, nor what their approach might be.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates

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