It’s been almost a year now since California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 899 into law, giving the state’s troubled workers’ compensation system an overhaul on April 19, 2004. Businesses expected their workers’ comp premiums to go down as much as 30 percent, but that has not happened. Workers’ comp costs are still the primary concern of small business owners, with 92 percent of respondents in a recent survey saying that their premiums either remained the same or increased in 2004 (see page 45).
Despite the fact that California still has the highest workers’ comp premiums in the nation, there are reasons to be optimistic. It appears that the reforms are working to some degree. Carriers are not avoiding California any longer and capacity is starting to come back. The state is starting to be attractive again, as evidenced by several new carriers entering the marketplace (see page 39).
What do you think the future holds for California’s workers’ comp market? Do you think that prices will start to come down as competition heats up? Do you anticipate relief for the system with the existing reforms or do you think more legislative action is necessary?
Proactive governors in other Western states are following Gov. Schwarzenegger’s example. Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski again introduced a proposal to stem costs in the state that has the second-highest workers’ comp premiums in the country. His bill last year died in committee. Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle also tried again to introduce legislative reform, but is not making much progress with Democrats.
Not all Western states have unreliable workers’ comp systems like California, Alaska and Hawaii, however. In fact, things are going so well in Colorado that the Legislature is actually considering reforms that, according to Democrats, would restore workers’ rights. Despite manageable premiums and a predictable system, Colorado legislators are considering reforms that would allow injured workers to choose their own doctor and receive more benefits.
What do you think about injured workers’ rights? Have you ever been injured on the job? What was your experience like? Were you able to see both sides of the workers’ comp issue as both an agent/broker and an injured worker?
Feel free to send me your thoughts on anything related to workers’ comp. Also be sure to check out our annual Workers’ Comp Directory in the national section. Until next time, happy reading!
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