The 2009 annual report of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario included a chapter on the unfunded liability of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). This chapter made reference to research conducted by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH), in close collaboration with the WSIB, examining factors associated with long-duration benefit claims following reforms to workers' compensation legislation in 1998.
The report indicated that the analysis conducted by IWH was important in identifying the need for changes in the WSIB’s service delivery model. The Auditor General’s report also referred to IWH's analysis of the rise in narcotic prescriptions for pain relief among WSIB clients. It was noted that the WSIB was developing a new narcotic drug program in light of this and other evidence.
The Auditor General’s report led to hearings in early 2010 on the WSIB unfunded liability conducted by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. On February 24, 2010, senior officials of the WSIB and the Ministry of Labour appeared before the Committee and made a number of references to research contributions provided by the Institute.
Research points to unintended effects of legislative changes
For example, the president of the WSIB noted that
studies by the Institute for Work and Health and, more recently, by the firm of KPMG found that the key drivers for the increase in duration of claims are unintended effects of legislative changes in 1998 that caused the WSIB to be less involved early in the life cycle of a claim, behaviours on the part of employers resulting from the way financial incentives were structured, and health-care costs, specifically addictive narcotics prescribed more often and earlier in the life of a claim (Hansard, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Feb. 24, 2010, p.473).
These three findings were elaborated on by the WSIB president later in the proceedings, and he concluded by indicating that those
were three very critical findings, all of which we have used in developing a number of the responses that we’re pursuing right now (Hansard, pp. 482-483).