The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) in Washington State announced premium rate hikes this week. The rate change affects workers and employers alike. Interestingly, this is the first workers’ compensation insurance rate increase in 5 years. In fact, premium rates will increase by 3.1% in 2022. Yet, even with this increase, workers’ compensation premium rates will be lower than in 2017.
Work injury claim insurance coverage
It’s important to remember that L&I provides workers’ compensation coverage to roughly 2.6 million workers. The insurance fund uses funds from premiums that L&I collects from employees and employers statewide. These funds cover all aspects of L&I claim expenses. This includes medical treatment benefits and wage replacement such as time-loss compensation and loss of earning power benefits. It also covers permanent partial disability awards, L&I claim settlement, and L&I claim pension payments.
Employers and workers pay into the workers’ compensation system to help cover insurance costs. Payments for the L&I Accident Fund provide workers with wage and disability benefits after a work injury on the job. It also covers the medical treatment for the work injury, occupational disease, or other work-related illness.
L&I claim insurance rate hike – reasons and background
Per L&I, the rate increase in 2022 is necessary because of rising coverage costs. Specifically, according to L&I’s announcement, costs are rising due to Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA). Furthermore, costs are increasing because of higher average wages across the state and the spike in inflation.
Naturally, many wonder if the increase in insurance costs has to do with coverage for COVID L&I Claims. During the pandemic, L&I helped thousands of businesses with premium payment grace periods and payment plans. However, according to L&I, it is not including COVID claim cost exposure in calculating premium rates.
Not all work injury rate hikes are equal
Remember, the 3.1% L&I insurance rate increase is an average. This means that certain employers and employees might see different increases (or decreases). It all depends on a variety of factors. For example, factors include things like recent claim history. Moreover, they comprise changes in the frequency and cost of claims in industry risk classes. At the same time, employees will continue to pay approximately quarter of the higher premium cost. In fact, employee’s contribution share is comparable to the contribution percentages in 2021.
The workplace injury insurance outlook in Washington State
In its announcement, L&I explicitly emphasized the importance of keeping rates steady and predictable. It plans to do this through efforts to prevent workplace injury and workplace illness occurrences. Additionally, L&I plans to continue to help workplace injury claimants heal and return to work.
Furthermore, L&I announced its goal to support recovery and provide services more early in the workers’ compensation claim process. Given this statement, I humbly suggest that L&I does a better job authorizing necessary objective diagnostic studies early in claims. That way, we won’t need to discover herniated disks, fractures, and tears two years into the L&I claim administration process.