Workers’ Compensation: Recent Developments in Moral Hazard and Benefit Payments
Studies using pre-1990 data generally found benefit and frequency elasticities for workers’ compensation cash benefits that exceeded, respectively, 1.0 and 0: an increase in expected benefits apparently induced (a) an even greater increase in actual benefit payments and (b) an increase in claim frequency. Researchers previously hypothesized that incentive effects for workers dominated those for employers. The authors of this study reevaluate benefit and frequency elasticities for 1975–89, using data with some advantages over those used by previous studies, and also investigate whether the elasticities changed during the years 1990–1999, when insurance policies with large deductibles increased employers’ incentives to limit benefits and many states restricted benefit eligibility. For both periods, they find benefit elasticities significantly under 1.0 and frequency elasticities of about 0. They also find that much of the substantial decline in actual benefits in the 1990s was due to changes in state compensability rules and administrative stringency.