An Evaluation of New Mexico Workers' Compensation: Permanent, Partial Disability, and Return to Work

An Evaluation of New Mexico Workers' Compensation: Permanent, Partial Disability, and Return to Work

An Evaluation of New Mexico Workers' Compensation: Permanent, Partial Disability, and Return to Work

An Evaluation of New Mexico Workers' Compensation: Permanent, Partial Disability, and Return to Work

Excerpt

New Mexico is in many ways a workers' compensation success story since implementing reforms in the early 1990s. Employer costs are among the lowest in the country, and insurer profits among the highest. In this environment, members of the workers' compensation community and the Advisory Council on Workers' Compensation and Occupational Disease requested information from the New Mexico Workers' Compensation Administration (NMWCA) regarding the adequacy of benefits for workers. During the first New Mexico legislative session of 1999, Senate Bill 560 appropriated funds for conducting a study of workers' compensation permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits and post injury employment rates (return-to-work rates). The NMWCA selected the RAND Institute for Civil Justice through a request for proposal process. Our study evaluated the adequacy of permanent partial disability benefits provided to injured workers and determined whether injured workers in New Mexico are returned to work promptly and successfully. The study also showed how New Mexico's PPD benefits and return-to-work rates compared with those of four other states.

This report compares outcomes for workers with partially disabling occupational injuries in New Mexico with outcomes for their counterparts in California, Wisconsin, Washington, and Oregon. We drew upon expertise and data developed in the course of a number of studies -the ongoing study of permanent disability that the ICJ is conducting for the California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation (CHSWC), a Boston University study of wage loss and return to work funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and a Michigan State University workers' compensation study funded by the State of Washington. We found that all five states in the study replace less than half the losses of PPD claimants. However, of the five states, New Mexico compensates the largest fraction of losses. The report identifies some areas for improvement, particularly in the area of return to work. This report should be of interest to policymakers and stakeholders in the workers' compensation system in New Mexico, and other readers interested in workers' compensation and disability issues nationally.

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