Washington State Proposes 3 Percent Boost in Comp Rates

 The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has proposed a 3 percent increase in 2009 worker's compensation rates. Average premiums would go up by just under 2 cents per hour worked. "We are in times of economic uncertainty and we want to do what we can to keep businesses strong in Washington State," said L&I Director Judy Schurke. "We are recommending a modest increase, even though inflationary pressures suggest a larger increase is indicated."

Two of the biggest factors that influence rates are workers' wages, which were up 5 percent last year, and health-care costs, which are estimated to increase next year by 5.5 percent, the department noted. Because Washington premiums are based on hours worked, L&I must explicitly adjust rates for wage inflation. Other states assess premiums as a percentage of payroll and, as a result, wage inflation is not a factor in their rates.

The proposed increase, which would bring in an additional $57 million, is an average for all Washington employers, the department said. Individual employers could see their rates go up or down, depending on their recent claims history and any changes in the frequency and cost of claims in their industry. L&I said it has published its proposal online and soon will send to employers its proposed 2009 rate tables by industry.

Washington's worker's comp system is made up of three funds that provide benefits when workers are hurt on the job. Under L&I's proposal, the Accident Fund rate would increase 1.8 percent. Employers pay premiums in this fund. The Medical Aid Fund rate would go up by 3.2 percent, and the Supplemental Pension Fund rate would increase 7 percent. Employers and workers contribute equal premiums for the latter two funds.

Washington is the only state in which workers pay a substantial portion of premiums. Next year, their share would increase slightly but remain just over 25 percent if the proposed rates are adopted.

Final 2009 rates will be adopted in late November following six public hearings:

  • Spokane: Oct. 21, 9 a.m., Spokane Airport Ramada, 8909 W. Airport Dr.
  • Kennewick: Oct. 21, 2 p.m., L&I Office, 4310 W. 24th Ave.
  • Bellingham: Oct. 22, 2 p.m., Bellingham Quality Inn, 100 E. Kellogg Road
  • Tumwater: Oct. 22, 2 p.m., L&I Headquarters, 7273 Linderson Way S.W.
  • Vancouver: Oct. 24, 10 a.m., Red Lion Inn at the Quay, 100 Columbia St.
  • Tukwila: Oct. 24, 10 a.m., L&I Office, 12806 Gateway Dr.

Written comments, accepted through Oct. 31, may be e-mailed to Ronald Moore, Employer Services Program Manager, at MOOA235@LNI.wa.gov or mailed to him at the Department of Labor & Industries, P.O. Box 44140, Olympia, Wash., 98504-4140. Faxed comments should go to (360) 902-4729.

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