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L&I proposes 1.8 percent average rise in workers' comp rates in 2015 — slightly less than wage inflation

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September 16, 2014

Tumwater – Tens of thousands of workers in our state are injured on the job every year, and our workers' compensation system is there, ready to help them, their families and their employers. As both wages for workers and health care costs go up, the cost of providing this insurance goes up too.

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is proposing an average 1.8 percent rate increase for 2015 workers' compensation premiums, which is just under the current rate of wage inflation. The increase comes out to about 1 cent per hour worked.

Employers and workers around Washington pay into the workers' compensation system so they're covered if someone gets hurt on the job or becomes ill from a workplace exposure. Last year, L&I covered more than 80,000 work-related injury and illness claims in Washington state.

The proposed premium increase will help cover wage and disability benefits, as well as medical costs for treatment of injuries and illnesses. It will also allow L&I to continue to build reserves to protect against the unexpected.

Cutting workers' compensation costs

"This measured increase will help make sure we have a healthy workers' compensation system that's always ready to help workers when they need it," said L&I Director Joel Sacks. "The proposal keeps with our long-term plan to keep rates steady and predictable, help injured workers heal and return to work, and reduce costs by improving operations." 

L&I has several initiatives underway to improve its ability to get injured workers healed and back to work while reducing costs and improving service. To do this, the agency is focused on:

  • Promoting injury prevention.
  • Ensuring injured workers receive quality health care.
  • Providing services to support employers who want to keep injured workers on a job.
  • Improving the workers' compensation claims process.

The Stay at Work Program is one example of agency work to help injured workers and employers, and save money. This fall, L&I launched a second campaign to promote the program. Through Stay at Work, the state reimburses employers for part of the cost of providing light-duty work to injured employees. The employees get to keep working and are more likely to recover faster.

Keeping the system healthy and rates steady

L&I is using wage inflation as a benchmark to keep workers' compensation rates steady and predictable. Washington's most recent wage inflation number is 2 percent. As wages climb, the cost of providing workers' compensation coverage rises.

"Raising rates this small amount helps keep costs in check for businesses, helps our system keep up with inflation and assures we have a reserve available for the tough times. It makes good financial sense," said Sacks.

Public hearings on the proposed rates will be held in: 

  • Bellingham, Oct. 22, 9 a.m., Whatcom Community College.
  • Spokane, Oct. 23, 9 a.m., CenterPlace Event Center.
  • Richland, Oct. 24, 9 a.m., Richland Community Center.
  • Tumwater, Oct. 27, 9 a.m., L&I Building.
  • Tukwila, Oct. 28, 9 a.m., L&I Office, Gateway Corporate Center.
  • Vancouver, Oct. 30, 9 a.m., Northwest Regional Training Center.

People can comment at the public hearings or in writing to Jo Anne Attwood, administrative regulations analyst, P. O. Box 41448, Olympia, WA 98504-4148; or email joanne.attwood@Lni.wa.gov. All comments must be received by 5 p.m., Nov. 3, 2014.

More information regarding the rates proposal is available at www.Rates.Lni.wa.gov. Final rates will be adopted by Dec. 1 and go into effect Jan. 1, 2015.

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Workers' Comp Facts:

  • L&I is the state's primary workers' compensation insurance provider, covering 2.4 million workers and more than 160,000 employers.
  • The proposed rate is an average. An individual employer's actual rate change may be more or less depending on that employer's industry and history of claims that result in wage replacement and/or disability benefits.
  • More than 80,000 claims are accepted each year through the Washington State Workers' Compensation State Fund. 

For media information:  Tim Church, 360-902-5673.

Broadcast Version:
L&I today proposed a 1.8 percent increase in the 2015 workers' compensation average base rate to cover claim costs for injured workers. This is about one cent per hour worked.

The public is invited to comment on L&I's proposal at public hearings around the state in October. The final rate decision will be announced by December 1. Complete information is online at www.Rates.Lni.wa.gov.

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