Wisconsin’s Skyrocketing Medical Costs
By Atty. Ken J. Kucinski
Medical providers in Wisconsin continue to charge extraordinarily high prices to treat Wisconsin workers who are injured on the job. This phenomenon has been consistently documented by yearly studies performed by an independent, not-for-profit organization known as the Worker’s Compensation Research Institute.
The numbers collected for the year 2017 show that medical prices in Wisconsin have risen by 39% between 2008 and 2017. This is the largest overall increase among all thirty-five (35) states which were included in these studies.
The prices charged to treat injured workers in Wisconsin were an astounding 158% higher than the 35-state average.
The authors of the study explain that one of the “Key Lessons” of their research has been that the states which have chosen not to adopt fee schedules tend to be the states whose constituents end up paying the highest costs for medical treatment for injured workers. On average, constituents who live in states that have not adopted fee schedules (which includes Wisconsin) end up paying 47% more for the same type of medical treatment than do constituents living in states with fee schedules.
Of course, there could be a number of legitimate explanations for why the prices charged in Wisconsin are outpacing the prices charged in the rest of the country. Nevertheless, the price hikes have a real and palpable effect on those who are directly impacted by them—the workers, the insurance carriers, and the employers.
From the standpoint of an attorney who routinely represents insurance carriers and employers in the defense of work injury claims, large unpaid balances for medical treatment often mean that a large portion of the settlement proceeds must be allocated to the medical providers, and not the injured worker. Indeed, in some cases, the unpaid balance for medical treatment is so large that it prevents any settlement of the case at all, forcing the parties to incur the risk and costs of trial, appeals, and so on.
For anyone interested in learning more about these issues, the study is available for download at https://www.wcrinet.org/ .