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2012 California Workers Compensation Outlook Special Report

Entering 2012, it is good to reflect on what the future holds for California Workers’ Compensation rates. Two questions stand out:

  • What is the impact of recent changes made to the Workers’ Compensation base rate?
  • Is there any better understanding on the effect of the Health Care Reform Act on Workers’ Compensation?

California's workers' compensation rate insurance board


Workers Compensation Base Rate

This Year, the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau adopted base rate changes representing a rate increase of 37 percent. Already carriers have increased rates between 2% and 20% and the possibility exists for more changes moving forward.


These rate changes have impacted most employers and will have an even greater impact on employers with high experience modifiers.  This underscores how important it is to maintain strong safety and risk management programs.


Health Care Reform

There are potential positive and negative outcomes for Workers’ Compensation as a result of health care reform change.


Positive Aspects:

Harry Shuford, chief economist for the National Council on Compensation Insurance, pointed out during a presentation at The Ratemaking and Product Management Seminar, that the health care reform law is a “totally new health care system that appears to have material implications for the future of health care delivery in the U.S.”

  • Workers’ Compensation costs may decrease as a result of the reform since medical claims are such a large part of Workers’ Compensation costs.
  • Workers’ Compensation share of medical costs is small and shrinking and Workers’ Compensation is only 3 percent of all health care spending in the U.S. as a whole.
  • The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes aspects of administrative simplification and standardization, which may have a potential positive impact on California Workers’ Compensation rates.
  • Medicare fees are going to be adjusted somewhat less frequently which should also help to hold down overall costs.


Negative Aspects:Workers Compensation insurance

Swiss Re notes there are potential negative and unforeseen consequences to reform in the report, “The Impact of U.S. Health Care Reform on Workers’ Compensation and Other Casualty Lines”

  • As government mandated cost containment starves the provider community, insurers could face cost shifting into the Workers’ Compensation system.
  • Medicare reimbursement levels are marginal for the medical community now.  As these decrease, this will pressure hospitals to cost shift where possible and the Workers’ Comp system is an easy target.
  • Individual employees do not bear the burden of costs and they have no reason or incentive to question the costs for any services they receive.  Without consumer oversight, cost shifting to the Workers’ Compensation system becomes easier.
  • As more people use the medical system with healthcare needs, the ratio of patients to medical practitioners is likely to increase creating an impact on availability of care.
  • Cost cutting will make providers being less likely to participate in occupational medical networks that offer discounts off fee schedules.


The Cure for Uncertainty

It is important to note that health care reform faces many challengers and while it may be the law of the land today, it could easily see changes if there is a major shift in the political leadership of our country.


The best strategy in uncertainty is for each employer to make sure their organization has developed and implemented effective risk mitigation programs, that will allow them to minimize exposure to any potential Workers’ Compensation premium increases resulting from rate changes and healthcare reform.


Final Thoughts

As the New Year begins, be sure to perform a quick review of your policies and practices:

  • Are you working with an Independent Insurance Agency that can help you find the best California Workers’ Compensation solution between different carriers for your particular needs?
  • Do you  have well-established programs to help you mitigate risks?
  • Do you have ongoing employee education that serves to re-emphasize the importance of creating and maintaining a safe workplace?


If you are unsure of what you may face due to the changing Workers’ Compensation landscape or if you haven’t taken a hard look at your risk management in a while, we at ISU Bob Gabriel Insurance are here to help.  We offer both expertise and access to the best Workers’ Compensation insurance carriers and would welcome the opportunity to review your current policies and help you move into 2012 with confidence that you have the best Workers’ Compensation program in place to meet your needs.

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