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California makes insurers cut workers comp premiums

workers comp

(Reuters) California on Wednesday announced the first regulation requiring insurance companies to reduce premiums paid by employers for U.S. workers compensation insurance, citing lower risk factors as millions of employees work from home.

Much like refunds on auto insurance policies prompted by lower driving risk under coronavirus lockdowns, California's emergency regulation reflects the reduced risk of on-the-job injury at the office or factory, the state said.

The regulation, effective July 1 and applicable to all employers in the state, is retroactive to the state's March 19 stay-at-home order and expires 60 days after the order is lifted, Michael Soller, a deputy insurance commissioner for northern California, told Reuters.

“Workers compensation premiums should reflect that many employees are performing less risky duties,” state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said in a statement.

Employers also can reclassify employees to clerical roles if their jobs have changed and involve lower risk, the state Department of Insurance said in a news release.

No other states have enacted a similar regulation, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

The amount of refund has not been calculated, Mr. Soller said. Insurers collected $11.4 billion in premiums in California last year.

Mr. Lara in April and May directed insurers to refund premiums for March, April and May, though he provided leeway for insurers on whether to issue refunds or reduce future premiums.

The new order will reduce the premium owed both for past months and the future, Mr. Soller said.

The regulation affects 50 insurers offering such policies in California. These include units of: Travelers Cos. Inc., Berkshire Hathaway Inc., American International Group., Chubb Ltd., Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., Everest Re Group Ltd., Employers Holdings Inc., James River Group Holdings Ltd., Old Republic International Corp., W.R. Berkley Corp. and Zurich Insurance Group AG, the state said.

More insurance and risk management news on the coronavirus crisis here.