Report: Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Payments Decline

By Jennifer Johnson Backer

Tennessee is one of 22 states where total workers’ compensation payments to injured workers and costs borne by employers decreased in 2011, according to a new report from the National Academy of Social Insurance.

The state’s employers paid $783.7 million in workers’ compensation benefits, down 0.1 percent from 2010, the report said.


Private firms in Tennessee with fewer than five employees are exempt from mandatory coverage.

Workers’ compensation data are used to gauge everything from health care spending to the cost of workplace injuries and are financed exclusively by employers in most states. Typical coverage pays 100 percent of medical costs for insured workers beginning with the day of injury and cash benefits for lost work time after a waiting period of three to seven days. Benefits vary according to the duration and severity of the injury.

About 96 percent of U.S. employees are covered by unemployment insurance.

Nationally, workers’ compensation payments rose in 2011 as the U.S. economy continued to recover, NASI said.

Total benefits climbed 3.5 percent to $60.2 billion. The calculations include a 4.5 percent gain in medical care spending and a 2.6 percent increase in wage replacement benefits.

Total costs to employers jumped 7.1 percent to $77.1 billion. In 2011, workers’ compensation covered an estimated 125.8 million workers, an increase of 1.1 percent compared with 2010.

Marjorie Baldwin, chair of NASI’s Workers’ Compensation Data Panel and an economics professor at Arizona State University, said the gain in workers’ compensation benefits shows the U.S. economy is improving.

“Workers’ compensation often grows with the growth in employment and earnings,” she said. “When benefits and costs are measured relative to total covered wages, then benefits remained unchanged, and costs to employers rose very modestly (to $1.27 per $100 of wages) after declining in the previous five years.”