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Dec 22, 2014 5:05 PM

Kevin Landrigan: A breakdown of workers compensation insurance in NH


CONCORD - Workers Compensation or on the job injury insurance. Ordinarily only pin-headed actuaries would get excited about the topic. But for New Hampshire businesses, it's a budget buster.

New Hampshire has the 9th or 12th highest rates for such insurance in the country.

Why? Ben Wilcox, present of Mount Cranmore Ski Resort, sat on a high-powered commission to answer that question. They found New Hampshire was one of only seven states without a fee schedule, set charges to pay for each injury.

"Of the data we looked at, of the eight states with the highest rates seven of them didn't have a fee schedule,'' Wilcox said.

Let's take a real life example. What if this worker cutting tree limbs in the air, one of the most dangerous jobs, tore his rotator cuff. What would it cost to repair it.

In a typical hospital, the bill comes to $2,500; if it's due to workers comp, the hit is $10,400.

But Gov. Maggie Hassan's commission took a go-slow approach, calling for a new database, pharmacy management and more study on issues like a fee schedule.

A scatching minority report called for more.

"The data is clear and overwhelming: New Hampshire workers compensation medical costs are out of line with the region and the nation,'' the minority report said.

Cranmore's Wilcox looked as his bill here compared to the corporate owned Jiminy Peak in Western Massachusetts with three times the employees.

"I was floored that the costs were two and three times higher here than in a similar hospital in western Massachusetts.''

Pamela Bronson, a commission member and administrator at Access Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics defended going slow on a fee structure.

"Implementing a fee schedule without fully explorintg all the factors that drive up overall workers compensation premium costs will most certainly have unintended consequences,'' Bronson wrote in her analysis.

Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny signed the modest majority findings but he too said time for

"Until such a database is constructed, however, we cannot afford to do nothing,'' Sevigny declared. "Work should begin immediately on the creation of a fee schedule that is fair and based on the real costs of health care in New Hampshire.''

Across all injuries, the price shock is stunning. Compared to health care, surgeries are 156 percent more, to ambulatory surgical centers it's 263 percent higher and radiology is up 107% over the standard rate.

Now it's up to the Legislature to decide if it wants to adopt a fee schedule.


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