The State of the States

State Workers’ Comp News

By: | January 21, 2014

Nancy Grover is the president of NMG Consulting and the Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

Oklahoma

Former administrator of the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court, Michael Clingman, joins the Massachusetts-based Workers Compensation Research Institute as a regional director based in Oklahoma.

“At WCRI, Mike will be responsible for relationships, revenues, and the impact of studies in a dozen states,” said a statement from WCRI. “He will work collaboratively with researchers on studies, and help public officials and stakeholders to apply the findings of relevant WCRI studies to local public policy debates.”

Clingman was previously the CEO of the Oklahoma State Insurance Fund, the state budget director, secretary of the Senate, secretary of the Oklahoma State Election Board, and the CEO of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission, the statement said.

“We are extremely pleased to add someone of Mike’s experience and talent to WCRI’s staff,” said Richard Victor, WCRI executive director. “He brings additional dimensions to the institute that helps us better accomplish our mission.”

Washington

Washington state’s employers and employees are seeing their workers’ comp rates increase for the first time in three years. The 2.7 percent rate hike announced for 2014 represents an increase of less than two cents per hour worked, state officials said. The increase is expected to bring in an additional $55 million in premiums.

Washington is the only state in which workers pay part of the workers’ comp premiums. With the rate increase, their share will be about 25 percent of the total.

The Washington state Department of Labor and Industries said the rate hike is part of a long-term plan “to ensure steady and predictable rates by benchmarking against wage inflation,” according to Director Joel Sacks. “It will also help to gradually rebuild the workers’ comp reserves.”

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Benchmarking against wage inflation is something that happens automatically in other states, L&I explained in a statement.

Reforms adopted in 2011 are expected to save approximately $150 million in the fiscal year that ends in July. Additionally, Sacks said the department is “committed to reducing costs by $35 million to $70 million by June” through various means of improving efficiency and addressing customers’ needs.

New Jersey

The Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau announced a 3.6 percent rate hike for New Jersey employers. Benefits to injured workers will also increase. The bureau announced the approval of the rate hike by the state’s commissioner of Banking and Insurance.

Also taking effect this month are maximum and minimum weekly benefit increases. Workers with all types of injuries except permanent partial disabilities may receive up to $843 per week up from $826. The minimum weekly benefit is now $225 up from $220.

In cases involving permanent partial disabilities, the maximum weekly benefits range is now between $225 and $843 up from $220 to $826. The minimum weekly amount for PPD benefits will remain at $35.

Ohio

Ohio employers that participate in state-sponsored safety councils are getting premium rebates and performance bonuses. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation recently made the announcement.

“Thousands of Ohio employers are receiving more than $9.4 million in savings for their participation in one of 78 safety councils sponsored by the BWC’s Division of Safety and Hygiene,” the agency said. “Safety councils are organized across the state by local businesses to inform participants of new safety standards and regulations, products and services, and provide a thorough knowledge of topics, including occupational safety and health, workers’ compensation, and risk management education.”

Employers that participate in safety councils are eligible to receive a 2 percent premium rebate. Those that reduce either frequency or severity of their workplace accidents by 10 percent or with maintenance at zero may additionally receive a 2 percent performance bonus.

More than 1,900 employers were rewarded for participating in safety councils, and 2,600 shared more than $4 million in performance bonuses, the agency said.

“Safety councils are outstanding partners in BWC’s efforts to educate employers and workers about the importance of workplace safety,” said Steve Buehrer, the BWC’s administrator/CEO. “We are pleased to award these employers that work hard to instill safety in their workplaces because they understand prevention is the single most important feature of an effective workplace safety program.”

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]