In Workers Compensation Cases, Women Win More Money When Their Doctors Are Women

Female workers injured on the job are more likely to qualify for workers’ compensation disability payments and to receive higher payment amounts when their claims are evaluated by female doctors, according to a new study from economics researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Their work provides evidence that a doctor’s gender could be a significant factor in gender disparities observed in medical evaluations.

The authors analyzed administrative data from the Texas workers’ compensation system from the years 2013 through 2017. The authors focused on the dispute resolution process of workers’ compensation insurance claims. Dispute resolution medical evaluations occur when one party – most often the insurer – disagrees with the assessment of the initial evaluating doctor. In such cases, an independent second opinion is obtained from a randomly assigned doctor. Patients have no control over the gender of the designated doctor who will decide their claim.

The results showed that female claimants were 5 percent more likely to be evaluated as disabled and received about 8.5 percent more in cash benefits when the doctor assigned to their claim was female rather than male. No comparable effect was found for injured male workers, whose benefits were the same regardless of the gender of the doctor assessing their claim.

“A growing body of research documents large disparities between male and female patients in health care and in social insurance benefits that rely on medical evaluations. However, it is not clear what drives these disparities,” said study co-author Marika Cabral, an associate professor of economics at the Univerity of Texas at Austin. “Our study indicates that doctors’ gender is an important factor in the evaluation of female patients, which suggests that the disparities are not entirely driven by underlying health differences between male and female patients.”

Dr. Cabral joined the faculty at the University of Texas in 2011. She is a graduate of the University of California, Sn Diego, where she doubled majored in economics and applied mathematics. She holds a PhD. in economics from Stanford University.

The full study ” Gender Differences in Medical Evaluations: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Doctors,” was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. It can be found here.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study

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