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Older Workers Affect Workers' Comp Loss Costs Less Than Expected

January 4, 2012
Related Topics: Top Stories - Frontpage, Workers' Compensation, Corporate Culture, Employee Relations, Generations, Diversity, Compensation, Benefits, Latest News
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Despite an increasing number of aging U.S. workers, older employees have had a smaller-than-expected effect on workers compensation loss costs, according to NCCI Holdings Inc.

In a report released Jan. 4, Boca Raton, Florida-based NCCI found similar average loss costs for all groups of workers ages 35 to 64. Additionally, claim frequency has declined across all age groups in the last several years as workplaces generally have become safer, according to the rating and research agency.

"These are reassuring findings, in that an aging workforce may have a less negative impact on loss costs per worker than originally thought," NCCI said.

However, medical and indemnity claim severity for workers ages 45 to 64 was more than 5 percent higher than claim severity for the study's youngest workers, ages 20 to 34. Much of that was a result of more severe injuries among older workers, including sprained rotator cuffs, torn knee cartilage and lumbar displacement.

NCCI noted that claim severity did not vary as widely among workers ages 35 and older.

"There is a common belief among many that because of poorer health and longer healing times, medical severity among the oldest workers is likely much greater than among younger workers," the report said. "However, although there are some wide swings from year to year, medical severity for workers 65 and older does not seem much different from (workers over age 35)."

NCCI also noted that higher wages contributed to higher indemnity costs among older employees in the study, who received 26 percent more in average temporary benefits per day than workers ages 20 to 34.

Sheena Harrison writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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