State Fund board OKs workers’ compensation decrease

State Fund board OKs workers’ compensation decrease

HELENA — The Montana State Fund board of directors has reduced workers’ compensation rates by 5 percent, state officials said Wednesday, adding it was the 11th year in row that rates have remained the same or decreased.

The rate filing must still be approved by the state Insurance Commissioner to ensure it is not excessive, inadequate or discriminatory, officials said. The board made the decision Friday.

“Once again this is good news for our policyholders. This rate reduction is due in part to legislative reforms, and to employers’ efforts to reduce workplace accidents and improve Montana’s safety culture,” Laurence Hubbard, president/CEO of Montana State Fund, said in a news release.

“Employers want, and deserve, stability and predictability in their workers’ compensation costs. We aim to provide that stability,” Hubbard said.

In 2010, Montana had the highest workers’ compensation rates in the nation and reforms were passed by the 2011 state Legislature. Most recently, Montana was ranked 11th highest overall in the 2016 Oregon Workers’ Compensation Premium Rate Ranking Summary, which comes out every two years.

The average overall 5 percent rate decrease will apply to any policy with an effective date in Policy Year 2018 (July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018). The State Fund now insures about 26,000 Montana businesses and other organizations, Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale said.

“Montana is trending in the right direction on work comp and I’m optimistic about the impact the State Fund reduction will have on Montana businesses,” Rosendale said. “The more we continue to improve the climate for doing business in Montana, the more jobs and prosperity Montana businesses can create.”

Last week, a 7.8 percent reduction in workers’ compensation “loss costs” was approved by Rosendale and will take effect July 1.

Loss costs are the dollars needed to pay the worker’s compensation benefits plus an amount for claims adjusting, such as taxes and other contingencies, officials said.

The last rate increase was in 2006. Since that year, rates have now been reduced by 44 percentage points, officials said.

Montana has had a reduction in the number of claims filed, dropping from 6.6 per 100 full time employees in 2010 to 6.1 in 2014, according to a Department of Labor report.

Rates are determined by looking at the types of jobs and business classifications of policyholders, as well as individual loss history. Overall rates for customers may vary up or down depending on their industry and experience. State Fund’s rate-making process is very similar to that used by private carriers, making it possible to compare rates.

Gov. Steve Bullock said the news was another step forward to help businesses grow and create more good-paying jobs.

“Montana’s strong fiscal management and efforts by employers to keep workers safe results in more hard-earned dollars to invest in business, employees, and Montana’s economy,” he said.