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New policy brief examines impact of occupational injuries and illnesses among low-wage workers
Date:12/13/2012

ied from occupational ailments such as black lung disease or certain kinds of cancer. Another 1.6 million suffered from non-fatal injuries, and 87,857 developed non-fatal occupational health problems such as asthma. The costs of the 1.73 million injuries and illness amounted to $15 billion for medical care and another $24 billion for lost productivitythe cost when injured or sick workers cannot perform their jobs or daily household duties.

The policy brief explains that workers' compensation insurance either does not apply or fails to cover many of these costs, which can bankrupt families living on the margin. In some cases, employers do not have to offer this kind of insurance to employees. And even workers that do have the coverage often get an unexpected surprise after an on-the-job injury or illness: Insurers generally do not have to provide wage replacement until the worker has lost between three and seven consecutive shifts. And workers at the low end of the wage scale are often discouraged from reporting on-the-job injuries as work-relatedwhich leaves them with no insurance benefits at all, the brief said.

Leigh calculates that insurers cover less than one-fourth of the costs of occupational injuries and illnesses. The rest falls on workers' families, non-workers-compensation health insurers, and taxpayer-funded programs like Medicaid.

"When low-wage workers miss even a few days of pay while recovering from an occupational injury or illness, the effects spread quickly," Borkowski says, noting that fewer than one in five low-wage workers has access to paid sick leave. "They will usually have to cut back on their spending right away, which affects the local economy." And families with children might skip meals or cut back on the heat, money-saving tactics that can put vulnerable family members such as children at risk of developmental delays and poor performance in school.

The brief suggests that policymakers should addres
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Contact: Kathy Fackelmann
kfackelmann@gwu.edu
202-994-8354
George Washington University
Source:Eurekalert

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