Vast Majority of Injured Workers in California Have Access to Quality Care

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The vast majority of injured workers in California have access to quality medical care, according to a new study conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research for the California Division of Workers' Compensation. Released Friday, the report is the first comprehensive evaluation of injured workers' access to care since legislation went into effect in 2004 to reform the state's workers' compensation system.

The study also showed that the majority of injured workers are satisfied with their care, and levels of satisfaction appear unchanged from a similar study done in 1998.

"This study shows that, following the introduction of evidence-based medicine and treatment guidelines, most injured workers feel they are getting the care they need," said Dr. Anne Searcy, executive medical director of the Division of Workers' Compensation. "It also points out where we need to improve and gives us a baseline to measure the impact of changes we make going forward."

While some doctors surveyed for the study perceived a decline in access to quality care since the 2004 reforms, 82 percent of injured workers reported having access to quality medical care for their injury.

"The fact that physicians report perceived declines in quality as a result of the 2003 and 2004 reforms isn't surprising," said Gerald F. Kominski, associate director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and lead author of the study. "Some doctors are understandably dissatisfied because these reforms placed limits for the first time on the volume and type of services that can be used to treat injured workers. What's important is that these negative perceptions of doctors regarding access and quality do not reflect the actual experience of most injured workers."

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According to the report, among the nearly 1,000 injured workers surveyed in 2006, 87 percent visited a health care provider within three days of reporting their injury, 92 percent were able to see a specialist when referred and 94 percent were able to see a physical or occupational therapist when referred.

Among the nearly 1,100 medical providers surveyed, the majority reported that they intend to continue providing treatment to workers' compensation patients. Providers who left the system or intend to decrease the number of workers' compensation patients they see cited payment or fee schedule issues, paperwork and administrative issues, and utilization review issues as reasons.

Some of the report's other findings:

More than half of injured workers (55 percent) were not fully recovered from their injuries more than a year after the injuries occurred.

Injured African American, Latino and Asian American workers were more likely than whites to report not receiving quality care, pointing to a possible disparity.

The entire study can be found on the Web site of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Reasearch at http://www.healthpolicy.ucla.edu.

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research is one of the nation's leading health policy research centers and the premier source of health-related information on Californians. The center is based in the UCLA School of Public Health and is affiliated with the UCLA School of Public Affairs.

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