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Privatizing public services and strategic behavior: The impact of incentives to reduce workers' compensation claim duration


  • McInerney, Melissa


During the 1990s, the state of Ohio contracted out Workers' Compensation (WC) case management, incorporating a large bonus payment intended to reward reduced claim duration. The bonus is essentially a decreasing function of average days away from work, excluding claims longer than 15 months. In response, duration is predicted to decrease for claims with moderate injuries and increase for some severe claims so that claimants will miss more than 15 months of work and be excluded from the calculation. I show that contractors increased duration for severe claims but find no evidence that contractors successfully reduced duration for moderate claims. However, contractors received large bonus payments. This is likely because the financial reward to merely excluding a small share of severe claims from the calculation of the bonus payment is large enough to enable TCMs to receive the full bonus. These contractor responses are inconsistent with state intentions, suggesting public entities should anticipate strategic behavior when crafting performance-based incentives.

Suggested Citation

  • McInerney, Melissa, 2010. "Privatizing public services and strategic behavior: The impact of incentives to reduce workers' compensation claim duration," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(9-10), pages 777-789, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:94:y:2010:i:9-10:p:777-789

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James J. Heckman & Carolyn Heinrich & Jeffrey Smith, 2002. "The Performance of Performance Standards," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(4), pages 778-811.
    2. David Neumark & Peter S. Barth & Richard A. Victor, 2007. "The Impact of Provider Choice on Workers' Compensation Costs and Outcomes," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 61(1), pages 121-142, October.
    3. Jeff Biddle & Karen Roberts, 2003. "Claiming Behavior in Workers' Compensation," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 70(4), pages 759-780.
    4. Meyer, Bruce D & Viscusi, W Kip & Durbin, David L, 1995. "Workers' Compensation and Injury Duration: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 322-340, June.
    5. Anonymous, 2007. "Selected Paper Abstracts, Annual Meeting," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Southern Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 39(02), August.
    6. Duggan, Mark, 2004. "Does contracting out increase the efficiency of government programs? Evidence from Medicaid HMOs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2549-2572, December.
    7. Arild Aakvik & Egil Kjerstad, 2003. "Skill formation among vocational rehabilitation clients - public policy vs private incentives," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(3), pages 219-237.
    8. Pascal Courty & Gerald Marschke, 2008. "A General Test for Distortions in Performance Measures," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(3), pages 428-441, August.
    9. מחקר - ביטוח לאומי, 2007. "Annual Survey 2006," Working Papers 20, National Insurance Institute of Israel.
    10. Butler, Richard J & Worrall, John D, 1985. "Work Injury Compensation and the Duration of Nonwork Spells," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 95(379), pages 714-724, September.
    11. Frank Neuhauser & Steven Raphael, 2004. "The Effect of an Increase in Worker's Compensation Benefits on the Duration and Frequency of Benefit Receipt," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 288-302, February.
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