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Keywords:

  • occupational injuries;
  • workers' compensation;
  • insurance coverage;
  • injury surveillance;
  • disparities;
  • payer;
  • trauma registries;
  • traumatic injuries;
  • Latino;
  • Hispanic

Abstract

Background

Acute work-related trauma is a leading cause of death and disability for U.S. workers but it is difficult to obtain information about injured workers not covered by workers' compensation (WC). This study aimed to: (1) describe trends in expected payer and linkage to WC claims, (2) compare characteristics of injured workers who did and did not have a linked WC claim, and (3) describe variation in expected payer and linkage to WC claims by ethnicity and injury severity.

Methods

Data for injuries occurring from 1998 through 2008 were obtained from the Washington State Trauma Registry and linked to WC claims.

Results

We found that 27% of work-related traumatic injuries did not have WC listed as a payer, while 37% did not link to a WC claim. Among those with WC listed as a payer, the odds of having a linked WC claim were 57% lower for workers with other non-WC insurance compared with the otherwise uninsured. Latinos were more likely to have a linked WC claim compared with non-Latinos, but there was no significant difference after partially controlling for WC-covered employment and other insurance.

Conclusions

This study demonstrated the importance of considering differential access to other insurance coverage and adaptation by health care settings to financial pressures when assessing trends in occupational injury incidence and reporting, especially when using WC as a proxy for work-relatedness. The addition of occupation, industry, and work status to trauma registries and hospital discharge databases would improve surveillance, research, policy and prevention efforts. Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:742–754, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.