Saturday, August 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

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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Chris Brennan, a native Philadelphian and graduate of Temple University, joined the Daily News in 1999. He has written about SEPTA, the Philadelphia School District, the legalization of casino gambling, state government, the mayor, the governor, City Council and political campaigns. E-mail tips to brennac@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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Sean Collins Walsh is from Bucks County and went to Northwestern University. He joined the Daily News copy desk in 2012 and now covers the Nutter administration. Before that, he interned at papers including The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News and The Seattle Times. E-mail tips to walshSE@phillynews.com
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