By H. Allan Hunt
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Extra resources for Adequacy Of Earnings Replacement In Workers' Compensation Programs: A Report Of The Study Panel On Benefit Adequacy Of The Workers' Compensation Steering Committee
If the workers’ compensation statute specifies a target replacement rate of 100 percent, her wage replacement at 80 percent is inadequate; if the statutory target rate is 60 percent, her wage replacement is more than adequate. To measure wage replacement rates, we need to measure benefits paid and injury-related wage losses incurred. Although we have specified that we will confine our attention to the replacement of the injured worker’s lost earnings, any attempt to measure replacement adequacy still needs to nail down a specific definition for both benefits and losses, answering a number of questions.
Others may have their claims disallowed for various reasons. Still others may be compensated for injuries that are not work related, or may fail to return to work when they are able. In short, we take the workers’ compensation system at face value. If the system has found a claim to be valid, we accept that. If the system has denied a claim, so be it. Tightened eligibility rules in some states may mean that workers with injuries and illnesses that previously would have been compensable may no longer be eligible to receive benefits (Burton and Spieler 2001; and Spieler and Burton 1998).
This could be thought of as an implicit “deductible” provision for injured workers, although it is usually retroactively reimbursed if disability continues beyond a certain number of days. Third, weekly benefits are always limited by an externally determined maximum benefit, most often connected to the state’s average earnings level. Nearly half of the states set this maximum benefit rate at 100 percent of the state’s average weekly wage. The result is that higher-paid workers receive a lower percentage replacement of gross wage losses than lower-wage workers.