Workplace Changes Can Lower Obesity Workers Comp Claims

As Obesity Problem Grows, Employers Can Make Changes to Help Lower Obesity Workers Comp Claims

workers comp claimsA speaker at the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. in Denver on Tuesday, April 29th, gave a talk titled “Obesity Weighs Down Workers’ Compensation,” which discussed what employers can do to help lower workers comp claims from overweight employees.

Kevin Glennon of One Call Care Management presented the talk, discussing problems with furniture and other office fixtures that could lead to workers comp claims. For example, most office chairs have a weight limit of 250 lbs, so employees that weigh more than that are at risk for injuries if furniture collapses.

“Once you begin to go beyond that 250-pound mark, that is when you have got to be cognizant of heavy-duty or bariatric medical equipment and/or office equipment to safely meet the needs of that individual,” Mr. Glennon said.

The incidence of obesity in the United States has risen drastically over the past 50 years, from 13% of the population, to 34% of the population. Patients in the “morbid” obesity category were once 0.9% of the population, but now come in at 6% of the population.

Obese workers also file twice the number of workers comp claims as their non-obese counterparts. On average, medical costs for obese patients are 7 times higher as well, and obese workers miss more work days – on average, absenteeism is 13 times higher.

Kate Wolin, associate professor for public health sciences and surgery at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine, also presented a talk that employers should consider encouraging a healthier lifestyle for their employees, particularly with healthy food choices.

“In the workplace, it matters what’s in the vending machine,” she said. “It matters what’s in the cafeteria, if you have one. It matters whether people have to drive to get healthy food options … because there (are) no options around the workplace.”

AMA’s Reclassification of Obesity as Treatable Disease Could Affect Workers Comp

In July 2013, the American Medical Assocation (AMA) reclassified obesity as a treatable disease. A study just one month later, conducted by the California Workers Compensation Institute, suggested that the classification could have a significant impact on workers comp costs in the state.

“The result could be an increasing number of claims that include obesity as a comorbidity, as well as an increase in cases in which obesity is claimed as a compensable consequence of injury in the same way that sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction and psychological disorders became commonplace prior to the passage of SB 863,” the report states. Legislation SB 863 is being enacted to change how the California workers comp system handles problems like sleep disorders and sexual dysfunction, in order to lower costs involved in workers comp insurance and claims in the state.

The American Medical Association has no legislative power. However, their decisions on reclassification of diseases and treatments often influence policy, the California Workers Compensation Institute noted.

“Comorbidities such as obesity have been a factor that impact treatment outcomes for injured workers for some time and are addressed on a case-by-case basis where appropriate,” said Michelle Weatherson, director of the California State Compensation Fund’s claims medical division. “It is not clear that the information in this report will substantively change our approach, but we are evaluating what this information means to our claims handling going forward.”

The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Workers Comp Claims in South Carolina

Whether your case involves obtaining benefits for a denied workers comp claim, helping you obtain medical treatment, negotiating a fair and equitable settlement for your on-the-job injury, or even pursing a claim against a third party who caused and/or contributed to your workplace injury, the workers compensation lawyers at the Strom Law Firm, LLC represent injured workers at all stages of the workers compensation claim process, including initial hearings and appellate proceedings. The most important thing you need to focus on is a speedy recovery. You need an advocate who will seek justice on your behalf. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss the facts of your workers comp case803.252.4800