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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, July 9, 2012, 6:00 am

Obesity lengthens use of workers’ comp, study finds

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    Dan Verel, Business Journal Staff ReporterObesity is increasingly contributing to higher costs in workers compensation rates, according to a new study that found the duration of claims by obese persons is more than five times longer than claims by non-obese persons.

    The study, conducted by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, compared obese claims to comparable nonobese claims, matching all claim characteristics exactly except for age at injury.  It found that while the indemnity duration of claims was longer, obese workers were also more likely to be injured at work.

    “The study shows that, based on temporary total and permanent total indemnity benefit payments, the duration of obese claimants is more than five times the duration of non-obese claimants, after controlling for primary ICD-9 code, injury year, U.S. state, industry, gender and age,” authors of the report said.  

    The council said its study comes shortly after a similar Duke University study of its own employees, which found significantly higher likelihood of injury for the most obese employees.  The Duke study found medicals costs for morbidly obese employees were 6.8 times higher than the average-weight employees. The morbidly obese were twice as likely to have a claim at work and missed nearly 13 times more days of work.

    Additionally, employees who are classified as obese have medial costs that are about twice as much as those who are not obese, according to the council, a nationwide trade group that gathers data on the industry.

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    Napa-based The Doctors Company, the largest medical malpractice insurer in the country, has agreed to lower its rates by 10 percent, according to Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who last year required six of the state’s largest malpractice insurers to submit rate filings to the Department of Insurance.

    The company’s rate reduction will save dentists, doctors and other medical providers a combined $21 million in malpractice premiums, according to Commissioner Jones.

    The Doctors Company joins five other insurers that recently lowered rates, resulting in a total savings of nearly $44 million, according to the commissioner.

    After reviewing the filings, he determined the rates were “excessive” and required all six companies to substantially lower their medical malpractice insurance rates. 

    The Doctors Company joins Medical Protective Company (MedPro), NORCAL Mutual, The Dentists Insurance Company, The Medical Insurance Exchange of California’s physicians and surgeons program and The NCMIC Insurance Company in lowering rates at the direction of the Insurance Commissioner. 

    ***

    The California Senate passed SB 1431, which would set guidelines for stop-loss carriers when selling policies to small employers with 2 to 50 employees.

    The bill would also apply consumer protections found in both the federal Affordable Care Act and California’s small employer health insurance law to such policies.

    It is authored by Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and sponsored by Commissioner Dave Jones and the California Department of Insurance.

    Stop-loss insurance is sold to companies that self-insure employee’s health care coverage. Although self-insurance is typical among large employers, smaller employers have recently expressed increased interest.

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    Submit items for this column to dan.verel@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4257.

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