WCRI: Despite Improvements ‘Concerns’ Remain in Ark. Workers’ Comp System

September 22, 2005

The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute reported that Arkansas’ workers’ compensation system has experienced a period of stability after extensive reforms were passed in 1993, but maintained that some concerns still remain.

According to a recent report published by WCRI, some employer representatives say several court decisions have diluted the impact of the reforms. On the other hand, some worker representatives are critical of the exclusion of many workers with job-related, but gradually occurring injuries, delays in resolving disputed claims and the relatively low statutory maximum weekly temporary disability benefit levels.

Among WCRI’s findings:

–Rising medical and indemnity payments per claim were system cost drivers in recent years. Average incurred medical benefits per indemnity claim (inflation adjusted) rose 7.9 percent annually from policy years 1999 through 2002, while average incurred indemnity benefits per claim (inflation adjusted) grew 4.7 percent in the same time period.
–Arkansas is one of ten states that ties the maximum weekly temporary total disability (TTD) benefit to less than 100 percent of the statewide average weekly wage. About one in six injured workers was affected by the state’s relatively low statutory maximum weekly TTD benefit.
–Among cases closed in fiscal year 2003, there was a statewide average of 6.5 months from hearing request to a formal hearing and opinion by a judge. This interval was shorter than in six of nine other states (for which comparable data are available) WCRI studied in the past 10 years.

To read the abstract or to order a copy of the report, visit the WCRI Web site.

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