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How does mental health relate to worker’s compensation?

Friday, February 23, 2018
Written By

Insurance brokers work with all types of businesses, from one-man shops to Fortune 500 companies. Some of these businesses are riskier than others. But regardless, your clients need to protect themselves and their employees from injuries on the job. If you sell worker’s compensation insurance, you may have noticed in increasing number of claims related to mental health issues.

When it comes to mental health injuries, there are two types of potential worker’s comp claims. First, there is the scenario where the mental or psychological condition is caused by the afflicted person’s work. For example, a worker in a highly demanding field may have an anxiety condition caused by stress on the job.

The second, and more common scenario, a mental health injury resulting from a physical injury. For example, a worker may experience a traumatic physical accident, and that could trigger an anxiety disorder like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Or a physical injury that causes significant pain could lead to a pain-killer addiction.

In fact, treatment for psycho-social problems such as anxiety, depression, and addiction are proving to be the most costly issues affecting comp claims. It is estimated that 50% of injured workers experience some symptoms of clinical depression.

Part of the reason these claims are so costly is that the length of treatment is unpredictable. It is very difficult to estimate the time it will take to treat a mood disorder, for example. Furthermore, mental health problems resulting from a physical injury can crop up months after the original incident. These unexpected claims can be very expensive.

How do employers mitigate the costs?

As a broker, part of your job is to help your clients maintain the best level of coverage possible, while keeping costs low. So what can you do to help employers protect their staff and keep costs to a minimum?

Pay attention to the mod factor. It’s not only insurance companies who pay a price for expensive claims. Employers can rack up significant costs too. If a company is large enough to have an experience modification, then worker’s comp claims will directly impact their costs. As a Zywave partner, you already have access to sophisticated workers compensation insurance software. Using ModMaster, brokers can identify cost drivers and provide strategies to improve the mod.

Some of those strategies might involve evaluating those issues within a workplace that could be causing employees stress. Look to exit interviews, retention rates, and absenteeism for clues. Does the employer have an excessive number of bullying and harassment complaints? Is mentoring available? Is communication clear to employees? Are workers expected to stay at their desks after hours? Do employees feel recognized for their efforts?

For individual employees who have been injured, it’s important to identify mental health issues early. Left untreated, a mental condition could make even a small claim unmanageable. This often results in poor outcomes for the worker, and high cost for the insurer and the employer. Employers can encourage all injured employees to have a psychological evaluation right away, to be sure that any issues are caught immediately.

Finally, it’s important to carry comprehensive health insurance with mental health coverage, and offer it to all employees. Although some mental health injuries are covered by worker’s compensation, some may not be. Employees need access to evaluation and treatment as soon as they need it, without having to wait upon an uncertain worker’s comp claim.

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