Every two years the State of Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services conducts a study on workers’ compensation insurance premiums. In October 2014, they found that Illinois experienced the steepest reductions in workers’ compensation insurance premiums in the country in the last two years. The study estimates that Illinois rates dropped 24 percentage points from 2012 to 2014, whereas the national median was a reduction of only 2 percent.
In September, 2014, the National Council on Compensation Insurance reported a 19.3% drop in loss costs since 2011. This is a savings of more than $450 million since the amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act were passed in 2011. For 2015, the Department of Insurance recommended a 5.5% cut in rates. This is the third straight year a rate reduction has been recommended. If insurance companies had followed the NCCI’s recommended rate reductions, employers could have released an additional $1 billion in premium decreases. However, insurance companies are not required to make the recommended reductions in premiums.
If Illinois has experienced nearly a 20% reduction in loss costs, why are business associations calling for more “reform”? This would only take away more rights from injured workers and increase the insurance industry’s profits. Real reform should promote transparency in the insurance industry to determine why the reduction in loss costs is not being translated into even further rate reductions for employers. Given the lack of premium oversight, workers’ compensation insurance remains the second most profitable line of insurance after auto insurance. Before the legislature contemplates taking away the rights of injured workers, they should mandate the insurance industry pass the cost savings along to employers by way of further premium reductions.
So what is the answer: Insurance Reform! Injured workers and medical professionals have accepted steep decreases in benefits and reimbursement in order to lower costs for business. The next step to insure rate reductions keep pace with lowered costs is regulation of the insurance industry to assure that they pass along cost savings to consumers.