Oregon: Workers' compensation rate to decline slightly for fourth straight year
According to the Department of Consumer and Business Services, the workers' comp pure premium rate will drop 1.3 percent in 2010, saving employers an estimated $18.1 million. Workers' comp rates have fallen each year since 2006 and have not increased since 1990. Gov. Ted Kulongoski said that comp costs have declined more than 60 percent in the past two decades, resulting in an overall savings of more than $17 billion.
The pure premium rate is the base rate employers pay their insurance company for workers' comp coverage. On average, the department said employers can expect a 1.3 percent decrease in pure premium in 2010. Specific cost changes vary from business to business.
Injuries and reforms.
Cory Streisinger, director of the DCBS, cited increased workplace safety efforts with the trend in falling premiums. Workplace injury and illness rates in Oregon have declined nearly 19 percent since 2004 and more than 50 percent since the late 1980s. Streisinger said injured workers are also returning to the job faster. Participation in the state's Employer-at-Injury Program -- a return-to-work initiative -- has grown 100 percent during the past five years.
Streisinger said Oregon's Management-Labor Advisory Committee has also been instrumental in keeping comp costs down. The group has been working closely with the medical community through the state's Workers' Compensation Medical Advisory Committee to control health care costs, a major driver of the pure premium rate. By screening the use of new and experimental medical procedures and encouraging the use of generic drugs, Streisinger said Oregon has been able to slow the growth of medical costs in workers' comp.
While low premiums have provided significant savings to employers, Streisinger said the state has continued to make changes to its workers' comp system to benefit injured employees. For example, legislation passed this year enhanced death benefits for surviving family members and made it easier for firefighters to receive benefits for work-related illnesses.
In addition to the pure premium announcement, the department said two workers' comp fees will remain unchanged next year. The workers' comp premium assessment, which pays for the administration of workers' comp and workplace safety programs, will remain at 4.6 percent in 2010 (4.8 percent for self-insured employers and employer groups). The Workers' Benefit Fund assessment, which pays for special benefits for injured workers and their employers, will remain at 2.8 cents-per-hour worked. Employers and workers each pay half of the Workers' Benefit Fund assessment.
Neither the premium assessment nor the Workers' Benefit Fund assessment has increased in the past eight years. Streisinger said the DCBS has cut agency operating costs in order to avoid raising these fees.
The pure premium rate decrease and the Workers' Benefit Fund assessment go into effect Jan. 1, 2010.
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October 5, 2009
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