A recent survey of 30 metropolitan areas showed a 30% increase from 2014 to 2017 in the average wait time for a new patient to be seen by a doctor. Did the subset of workers seeking treatment for workers comp (WC) injuries experience the same delays?

A recent study by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) yielded some surprising results.

The NCCI research was designed to answer the question: “Did the Affordable Care Act (ACA) stress the healthcare delivery system and make it more difficult for workers compensation claimants to get medical care?”

“If the ACA, or other changes to US healthcare delivery, makes access to care more difficult, then it is reasonable to expect longer times from injury to medical treatment.”

The study determined that the time from a WC injury to the initial professional medical care has  remained unchanged from 2011 to 2016. 

“While the time to receive specialized treatment has varied over that time, we find  no convincing evidence relating longer times to ACA implementation. Rather, we observe the opposite—that times for  referral care generally increased each year from 2011 to 2014 and since 2015 have—depending on the type of provider— stabilized or decreased to 2013 levels or lower.”

Key findings:

The organization’s latest research brief, “Monitoring the Time from Injury to Treatment,” analyzed data going back to 2011 and found that:

  • Since the ACA went into effect, injured workers did NOT see an increase in wait time to see a doctor
  • In fact, some wait times actually decreased, depending on the type of provider
  • There is no consistent relationship between time to treatment for workers compensation claims and the proportion of the population with medical coverage

The research brief delves into specifics for different provider groupings, in-network vs. out-of-network, and types of injury. For more details on these and other findings, access the complete report.