Who pays for work-related traumatic injuries? Payer distribution in washington state by ethnicity, injury severity, and year (1998-2008)

Am J Ind Med. 2013 Jul;56(7):742-54. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22179. Epub 2013 Mar 4.


Background: Acute work-related trauma is a leading cause of death and disability for U.S. workers but it is difficult to obtain information about injured workers not covered by workers' compensation (WC). This study aimed to: (1) describe trends in expected payer and linkage to WC claims, (2) compare characteristics of injured workers who did and did not have a linked WC claim, and (3) describe variation in expected payer and linkage to WC claims by ethnicity and injury severity.

Methods: Data for injuries occurring from 1998 through 2008 were obtained from the Washington State Trauma Registry and linked to WC claims.

Results: We found that 27% of work-related traumatic injuries did not have WC listed as a payer, while 37% did not link to a WC claim. Among those with WC listed as a payer, the odds of having a linked WC claim were 57% lower for workers with other non-WC insurance compared with the otherwise uninsured. Latinos were more likely to have a linked WC claim compared with non-Latinos, but there was no significant difference after partially controlling for WC-covered employment and other insurance.

Conclusions: This study demonstrated the importance of considering differential access to other insurance coverage and adaptation by health care settings to financial pressures when assessing trends in occupational injury incidence and reporting, especially when using WC as a proxy for work-relatedness. The addition of occupation, industry, and work status to trauma registries and hospital discharge databases would improve surveillance, research, policy and prevention efforts.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cost of Illness
  • Databases, Factual
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage / economics*
  • Male
  • Medically Uninsured / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Health / economics
  • Occupational Injuries / diagnosis
  • Occupational Injuries / economics*
  • Occupational Injuries / therapy
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Trauma Severity Indices
  • Uncompensated Care / economics*
  • Washington
  • Workers' Compensation / economics*
  • Young Adult