Evaluation of Washington State Workers' Compensation Health Initiative Finds Managed Care Program Cuts Disability Costs

Evaluation of the cost, quality of care, and satisfaction with Washington State's worker's compensation managed care pilot

From 1996 to 2000, researchers from the University of Washington evaluated a Washington state program that provided medical care for injured workers through managed care systems.

Interviewing workers who had lost work time due to their injury and received partial reimbursement for their lost wages, researchers compared health and employment outcomes and medical and disability costs for two groups of patients two years after their injuries:

  • Workers treated in managed care plans.
  • Workers treated in traditional fee-for-service settings.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Workers' Compensation Health Initiative national program.

Key Findings

  • Two years after the workers were injured, there were:

    • No statistically significant differences between managed care and fee-for-service patients, in terms of measures of mental health, physical functioning, pain, or their ability to work or perform household tasks.
    • No statistically significant differences between the numbers of patients in both groups reporting missing six months or more of work.
    • No statistically significant differences in the percentage of patients in both groups who returned to work.

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