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TUMWATER – The price of workers’ compensation insurance in Washington would drop for the third year in a row under a proposal by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

Today L&I proposed a 0.8 percent decrease in the average premium employers would pay for the coverage in 2020.

“Workplace injury rates in Washington are declining, and we’ve had great success in recent years helping injured workers heal and return to work,” said L&I Director Joel Sacks. “That’s good for everyone and is helping us keep the price of workers’ compensation insurance down.”

In 2018 the average workers’ compensation premium rate dropped by 2.5 percent. L&I lowered the 2019 rate by another five percent, the largest decline in more than 10 years.

Employers would pay less under 2020 proposal

The proposed decrease would mean Washington employers, as a group, pay a total of $21 million less in premiums.

The price drop would result in employers paying an average of about $15 less a year per employee for workers’ compensation coverage. Employees would see a very small increase in the amount they pay because of a rise in costs related to the supplemental pension fund, due to an increase in the average wage in Washington. The supplemental pension fund supports cost-of-living adjustments for long-term time-loss and pension benefits.

The public will have an opportunity to provide input about the rate proposal before a final decision is made in late November.

Making workplaces safer and helping injured employees heal and return to work

Preventing work-related injuries, along with L&I initiatives to improve outcomes for injured workers and reduce costs, has made the system healthier — contributing to the proposed decrease.

“While workers’ compensation insurance provides a safety net for workers and employers, the best thing we can do is work together to prevent workplace injuries and deaths and make sure employees come home safe and healthy,” says Sacks.

One of the ways L&I is helping employees and lowering claim costs is by ensuring injured workers receive return-to-work or vocational assistance much more quickly than in the past. This system-wide culture shift to support the vocational recovery of injured workers has made a real difference by helping prevent work disability and unnecessary time off work. The result has been a significant increase over the last five years in workers returning to work after their initial vocational services referral. 

Since this change, for every 1,000 referrals, the number of workers getting back to work has more than doubled. We anticipate even better results as we implement newly tested best practices in 2020.

Public hearings planned

Employers and workers pay into the workers’ compensation system to help cover the cost of providing wage and disability benefits for injured workers, as well as medical treatment of injuries and illnesses.

Everyone will have an opportunity to comment on the 2020 proposed rates at three public hearings:

  • Tukwila, Oct. 29, 10 a.m., Dept. of Labor & Industries Tukwila Office
  • Spokane Valley, Oct. 30, 9 a.m., Spokane CenterPlace
  • Tumwater, Nov. 1, 10 a.m., Tumwater Labor & Industries Office

People can also comment in writing to Jo Anne Attwood, administrative regulations analyst, P.O. Box 41448, Olympia, WA 98504-4148; or email joanne.attwood@Lni.wa.gov. All comments must be received by 5 p.m. Nov. 5, 2019.

More information about the proposal is available at www.Lni.wa.gov/Rates. Final rates will be adopted by early December and go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

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Workers’ comp facts:

  • L&I workers’ compensation insurance covers about 3 million workers and nearly 180,000 employers in Washington.
  • The proposed rate is an average. An individual employer’s actual rate change may be more or less depending on that employer’s industry and history of claims that result in wage replacement and/or disability benefits.
  • Labor & Industries accepted nearly 95,000 claims last year.

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