The study in Pain Medicine by John T. Chibnall, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and Raymond C. Tait, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, found that African-Americans and poor people with work-related back injuries receive less medical care and smaller compensation packages than Caucasians.

"We looked at the relationship between their satisfaction with the process and their self-reported disability nearly two years after their claims were settled,” Chibnall says. "African-Americans got less treatment and compensation for their pain, all other things being equal. This made them more dissatisfied, and more likely to report higher rates of disability later. That also held for poor people.”

The study examined 1,475 Missouri Workers' Compensation back pain cases, which were settled between Jan. 1, 2001, and June 1, 2002. "As an insurance system that provides uniform coverage for workers injured in the course of their employment in the United States, Workers' Compensation should be equitable with regard to case management of persons with low back injuries, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Similarly, outcomes of treatment, all other things being equal, should be roughly equivalent,” Chibnall says.

"The current data suggest that these expectations may not apply for African-American and lower social economic claimants in Missouri. Not only were these groups less compensated with respect to medical treatment, temporary disability, case settlement and disability rating, they were also less satisfied with the Workers' Compensation process and reported higher levels of post-settlement disability,” he continues.

Higher disability carries a cost, Chibnall notes, which is disproportionately borne by African Americans and those who are poor.; Source: Saint Louis University Health Sciences Center