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Calif. comp rates continue to fall, remain highest in US: Report

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Although workers compensation insurance rates in California have dropped 22% since 2014, the state still has the highest rates in the United States, representing one-fifth of the premium collected nationwide with only 11% of the national workforce, according to a report released Monday by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California.

The annual report reveals the state of the comp system in California, where the insurance commissioner has approved seven reductions in advisory pure premium rates since 2015, totaling 37% from the Jan. 1, 2015, level.

The 75-page report also notes that the decreases in rates are primarily the result of S.B. 863, a comp reform package passed in 2012 that aimed to rein in medical costs, compensation fraud and other problems deemed costly. Yet, the state’s higher-in-comparison rates are driven by “a high frequency of permanent disability claims, a more prolonged pattern of medical treatments and much higher than average costs of handling claims and delivering benefits,” according to the report.

Yet the current “rates are at the lowest level in a decade and are lower than rates charged in the 1970s and 1980s, as long-term declining claim frequency and increasing wage levels have offset rising medical costs,” the report states.

The report highlights other industry trends in the distribution of benefits:

 

  • Payments for pharmaceuticals have decreased by 6 percentage points since 2013, with about three-quarters of drug payments in 2017 made for non-control substances;
  • Opioid payments continue to shrink, representing 16% of all drug costs; 
  • Payments made directly to injured workers, which are primarily for future medical services, have increased by 4 percentage points, mostly due in part to accelerations in claim settlement rates.