Saturday, January 31, 2015

Controller: City dishes out $11 million more in workers' comp claims

The city has paid nearly $54 million for workers' comp claims for fiscal year 2011 -- a 26 percent increase from what the city paid five years ago, according to a report by City Controller Alan Butkovitz.

Controller: City dishes out $11 million more in workers' comp claims

City Butkovitz said there needs to be better management of the use of physical therapy and perhaps better training for those workers that are constantly injured on the job. (Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer)
City Butkovitz said there needs to be better management of the use of physical therapy and perhaps better training for those workers that are constantly injured on the job. (Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer)

Updated: To include response from the Nutter Administration

The city has paid nearly $54 million for workers' comp claims for fiscal year 2011 -- a 26 percent increase from what the city paid five years ago, according to a report by City Controller Alan Butkovitz.

The report cites concerns pertaining to excessive use of physical therapy in which costs have jumped by 25 percent to $4.4 million. In 49 of the 165 claims tested workers made 30 or more visits to physical therapy which in some cases were up to 15 months beyond the date of injury. Butkovitz said this was "well beyond the average three-month standard regimen after which a physical therapist will release a patient from physical therapy."

He said that leads to higher medical expenses and allows workers to collect benefits under the Workers' Compensation Program for a much longer period of time.

The report also revealed that some city workers have a history of filing several workers' comp claims including 386 who have filed 11 or more claims and 2,203 workers that filed five to ten claims during their employment.

Butkovitz said there needs to be better management of the use of physical therapy and perhaps better training for those workers that are constantly injured on the job.

The Nutter Administration said it has been trying to reduce opportunities for injury, but some jobs are dangerous.

"We unfortunately have jobs that present multiple opportunities for injury," said Barry Scott, deputy director of finance and the city's risk manager. "We have been trying to address dangerous jobs and reduce opportunities for workers to get injured repeatedly."

Scott said sanitation workers often get scratches and scrapes, but the city is not going to stop picking up trash. Also he said police often have to deal with unruly suspects. 

"You can't always control the hazards the job entails," he said, adding that by law the city can't deny physical therapy to a worker. 

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William Bender, a Drexel graduate who landed at the Daily News in 2007, has covered everything from South Philly mobsters to doomsday hucksters. He occasionally writes about local food trucks and always eats everything on his plate, whether it be a bloody rib eye or a corrupt politician. E-mail tips to benderw@phillynews.com
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Jenny DeHuff is a 2005 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she cut her teeth in journalism. A South Philly transplant from New England, she joined the Daily News City Hall Bureau in 2013. For the past several years, she has worked as an investigative reporter exposing corruption in suburban politics, covering sometimes ghastly criminal court cases and following the people’s money and how its spent. In addition to being a dogged news hound, she enjoys reading and writing about travel, animals, Irish whiskey and aviation. E-mail tips to dehuffj@phillynews.com
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David Gambacorta, has been a reporter with the Daily News since 2005, covering crime, police corruption and all of the other bizarre things that happen in Philadelphia. Now he’s covering the 2015 mayor’s race, because he enjoys a good circus just as much as the next guy. He’s always looking to get a cup of coffee. Send news tips and other musings on life to gambacd@phillynews.com
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