WCRI: National Medical Price a Poor Measure of Workers' Comp Price Inflation in Most States

The national medical price index is a poor measure of workers’ comp price inflation in most states, according to a 25-state study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute.

Unlike the consumer price index for medical care (CPI-M), which measures general prices paid for medical services, WCRI’s Medical Price Index for Workers’ Compensation, Fifth Edition (MPI-WC) focuses only on the prices paid for the medical care that injured workers receive under their state’s workers’ compensation system. WCRI says the CPI-M for professional services poorly tracked the workers’ compensation price trends for states with fee schedules. For states with no fee schedules, growth in CPI-M was fairly similar to workers’ compensation price trends.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Prices paid were higher in states with no fee schedule regulations for professional services as compared with fee schedule states;
  • There were more variations in prices paid across states for major surgeries than for primary care services;
  • Prices grew more rapidly over the study period in states with no fee schedules compared with states with fee schedules;
  • In states with fee schedules, changes in actual prices paid followed changes in fee schedules; and
  • Prices paid for services not covered by fee schedules grew more rapidly compared with services covered by fee schedules.

According to WCRI, the report includes 25 large states that represent nearly 80 percent of the workers’ compensation benefits paid in the US from 2002 to 2012 for nonhospital, nonfacility services billed by physicians, physical therapists, and chiropractors, falling into eight major groups: evaluation and management, physical medicine, surgery, major radiology, minor radiology, neurological and neuromuscular testing, pain management injections, and emergency care. The study is available on the WCRI website.