California’s workers’ compensation rating agency is developing new guidelines that would exempt a portion of first aid claims from being included in the calculation of employers’ X-Mods.
Under state regulations, employers are required to report injuries that require first aid and are not severe enough for the employee to seek medical treatment or miss work. But despite the rules, few employers report the claims to their insurance companies.
The Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau hopes that creating an exemption in the experience rating plan for first aid claims and injuries would increase reporting.
According to the trade press, the Rating Bureau is working on a plan that would exclude a portion of every claim from the X-Mod formula. The amount for that exemption has not been set and it’s likely that the change, even if approved this year, won’t take effect until at least 2017 or 2018.
But regardless, the move would be a welcome development for California employers, many of which are reluctant to notify their insurers of any injuries that involve only first aid treatment for fear that it will affect their X-Mod or because they are confused by the rules. The reporting of first aid claims is typically not mandatory in most other states.
The industries in which the lack of first aid claim reporting is most prevalent are the construction and restaurant industries, but it occurs in other sectors as well, according to the Rating Bureau.
When employers fail to report first aid claims it causes problems for claims adjusters, hinders workers’ ability to access workers’ comp benefits and has a negative impact on the employers that play by the rules and report all of their claims.
Also, what starts as an injury that only requires first aid treatment can later develop into a full-blown claim if the initial injury worsens.
According to the trade publication Workers’ Comp Executive, the Rating Bureau is looking at imposing a first aid claim exemption of $250, $500 or $1,000. It has been testing the different amounts and the effects on ensuring reliability of employers’ X-Mods.
Depending on the amount, it would have a substantial impact on reportable claims:
- The $250 threshold would eliminate 15% of the claims in the system.
- The $500 threshold would eliminate 36%.
- The $1,000 threshold would eliminate 54%.
The biggest concern is that eliminating so many claims could reduce the rating system’s ability to accurately predict system costs and set accurate rates.
The Rating Bureau expects that at the $250 threshold, the change would mostly affect employers who have no other claims and that it would push up their X-Mod by just one percentage point on average.
The committee studying the issue “thought this was a reasonable trade off to get more claims into the system,” David Bellusci, the Rating Bureau’s chief actuary, said during a classification and rating committee meeting in early April, according to the trade publication.
The perception there is that the honest employers reporting all of their claims, including these smaller first aid only claims, are at a disadvantage to employers that are not currently reporting these claims.
Also, the Rating Bureau plans to work Cal/OSHA in regard to changing the definition of first aid. Cal/OSHA regulations do not require that employers report injuries that require first aid to the agency.