North Dakota: Officials say reforms, safety programs keep premiums lowest in country
Premiums in North Dakota were once again ranked the lowest in the United States, according to a recent national study by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services. The study is undertaken every two years and marks the fourth time in a row that the state has ranked as the most affordable place for businesses to purchase workers' comp insurance. National premium rates ranged from a low of $1.08 per hundred dollars of payroll in North Dakota to a high of $3.97 in Alaska, with a median value of $2.26.
"This is great news," said Bruce Furness, interim executive director and CEO of Workforce Safety & Insurance, North Dakota's workers' comp agency. "With the legislative cooperation of the past 15 years, along with the strategic decisions made by our board of directors, we have come a long way."
Furness said WSI has been able to maintain low premiums while raising the benefits to workers through legislative reforms. In the past 15 years, the state has:
- Increased death benefits.
- Enhanced vocational rehabilitation benefits to help retrain injured workers and find them employment after they are injured on the job.
- Moved the waiting period from 10 to three years for cost-of-living adjustments for individuals on permanent total disability.
During the most recent legislative session, the WSI board of directors approved 2009 legislative proposals to further enhance injured worker benefits, including an:
- Increase of the lifetime cap on death benefits from $250,000 to $300,000, doubling the one-time payments to dependent children and spouses, and increasing the burial expenses to $10,000.
- Increase of the dependency allowance for those injured on the job with dependent children.
- Increase of the maximum disability benefit from 110 percent to 125 percent of state's average weekly wage. In addition, Furness said, the money employers saved on premiums can be used to pay higher salaries and benefits to workers while investing in workplace safety to prevent injuries.
In addition to legislative reforms, Furness said the state has maintained a strong emphasis on developing workplace safety programs.
"The best injury is the one that doesn't happen in the first place," he said. "WSI has committed nearly $15 million over the last three years by partnering up with employers throughout the state through safety grant programs to make workplaces safer."
January 12, 2009
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