Experience rating: Take your medicine or find a new prescription?

Les Boden

Dr. Les Boden is an economist and professor at Boston University. Much of his research has focused on describing the economic and human consequences of injuries and illnesses and identifying ways of minimizing those consequences. Over the past several years, Boden has published studies on the income lost by injured workers and the adequacy of workers’ compensation benefits. Recently, he put together a special issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine on workers’ compensation and human rights. Boden is currently a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Institute of Work and Health and an advisor to the United States National Economic and Social Rights Initiative.


Evidence about the effectiveness of experience rating in improving workplace health and safety is mixed, at best. Moreover, there is reason to believe that experience rating leads to claim suppression, discrimination in hiring, litigation, assaults on the dignity of injured workers and other negative outcomes.

Part of the appeal of experience rating is that it focuses directly on a worthy goal: reducing workplace injury, illness and consequent disability. Alternatives do not. They generally provide incentives for actions or conditions believed to affect health and safety. But we have little research about the extent to which these alternatives actually diminish injury, illness and disability.

This presentation discusses concerns about experience rating and proposed alternatives. It then describes an approach that combines new initiatives with action research designed to test the extent to which they achieve their goals.