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Published April 25, 2013, 08:52 AM

North Dakota workers' comp handling more out-of-state claims

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The boom in the western North Dakota oil patch has led to a workload increase for the state's workers' compensation agency.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The boom in the western North Dakota oil patch has led to a workload increase for the state's workers' compensation agency.

The number of claims by workers coming from other states is expected to increase from about 2,700 in 2010 to about 6,000 this year. The number of claims by people working in oil field jobs is expected to rise from about 750 in 2010 to 3,400 this year, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

The North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance agency historically has dealt mostly with North Dakota companies and employees.

"They worked here, their home state was here and they received treatment here," WSI Director Bryan Klipfel said.

Now that more workers and companies are coming from out of state, the agency is having to adjust to harder-to-handle claims, he said.

"They (injured workers) want to go back and treat where their family is," he said. "When you have that distance, it makes it hard to manage those claims."

Peggy Hill, a return-to-work case manager for the Sanford Health Occupational Medicine Clinic in Bismarck, said that when she works with out-of-state companies she encourages them to try to keep their employees in North Dakota for treatment. When injured workers stay in the state, she can ensure they make it to appointments and that the therapy is working.

When those injured workers do go home, Hill said, she helps them set up physical therapy in their hometown and forwards the necessary paperwork.

"What happens is that injured worker is required to find a provider who will take a workman's comp case, and in some states that's pretty difficult," she said.

WSI has added nine adjustors over the last couple of years due to the increased workload and also is adding 32 temporary employees, bringing the agency's workforce to about 270 people.

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