Female Workers Get Better Workers’ Comp When Seen by Female Doctors, Study Finds

In recent years, more attention has been brought to the issue of gender disparities in medical settings. Specifically, women – and especially women in BIPOC demographics – are more likely to be misdiagnosed or to receive incorrect treatment when male medical professionals treat them. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Texas at Austin looked at data from 2013-2017 to see if this same issue was prevalent in workers’ compensation cases.

Based on their conclusions, the issue does seem to affect workers’ comp cases, as suspected. By studying dispute resolution processes for workers’ compensation claims involving injured female workers, the researchers found that female medical evaluators were 5% more likely to conclude the claimant was “disabled” and unable to work than a male counterpart. Also, female workers were nearly 9% more likely to receive indemnity benefits to replace missing wages when female medical evaluator was assigned to their cases. Interestingly, injured male workers seemed to experience no disparity one way or the other when a male or female medical evaluator handled their claims.

To eliminate potential biases, the researchers used dispute resolutions that called upon an independent second medical opinion from a randomly selected medical professional. The claimants and the evaluators had no prejudgments about the other party due to this randomness.

This study coincides with other findings of how gender assumptions and anatomical misunderstandings can have big impacts on healthcare for women. The researchers compared their findings to a separate survey they conducted of more than 1,750 working adults to see if they had any preference when picking a doctor. At a noticeably higher rate, women reported that they preferred to be treated by a woman, whereas men seemed not to have any preference.

Important Takeaway from This Study

What you should take away from this study from the Universities of Illinois and Texas is that you have to be mindful about who evaluates your workers’ compensation case when you’ve been hurt at work, especially if you’re a woman. Without even realizing it, a male medical evaluator could be underappreciating the severity of your situation and injuries, which makes it more difficult for you to get the benefits you need. If you suspect that anything is off with how your claim is being handled, you should speak with a workers’ compensation attorney right away for prompt legal support.

Resource

“Gender Differences in Medical Evaluations: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Doctors” (Marika Cabral and Marcus Dillender, November 2021)
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