Race and Treatment for Workers Compensation Injuries
by Michael Fox
Although it is clear we have made great strides in the area of racial relations, the Kansas City infozine story, Sobering' Disparity: African-Americans Receive Less Compensation for Job-Related Back Injuries, does bring one up short. Thanks to Jordan Barab at Confined Spaces for the pointer to this story. One of the researchers noted that there had been some expectation of differences, but not the contrast that was found:
We expected that African-Americans would incur shorter treatment periods, lower treatment costs, lower temporary total disability payments, lower disability ratings and lower settlement awards. The extent of it surprised us. It's pretty clear there is disparity in a system that's supposed to provide equal access for everyone.
Medical care expenditures for African-Americans with work-related back injuries were about one third of those spent for Caucasians.
Total disability settlements to African Americans were approximately half of those awarded to Caucasians.
Caucasians were rated nearly two times more disabled than African-Americans.
Lower back injuries, the type that were the subject of this study, are a major concern in the workers compensation area since there is not always objective evidence of injury, raising concerns about fraudulent claims. But those concerns are not germane to these findings. Treatment and even settlement are not racial issues, or at least they should not be.