Workers’ Compensation Insurers Announce Planned Premium Reductions
State Compensation Insurance Fund and Zenith National Insurance on Monday reported planned rate reductions for policies beginning or renewing in the first half of 2006, the Sacramento Bee reports (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 11/29).
In a filing with the Department of Insurance, State Fund said it plans to reduce workers' compensation premiums by 16% (Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, 11/29). Zenith plans rate reductions of 13.1% on average (Sacramento Bee, 11/29).
The Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau had recommended a 15.9% reduction, and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi (D) on Nov. 10 recommended a 15.3% reduction in rates (Los Angeles Times, 11/29). Garamendi has recommended that workers' compensation reduce rates by a total of 46.2% over the past two years (Sacramento Bee, 11/29).
State Fund's proposal is "mid-ranged" relative to rates by about three dozen private insurance companies, according to the Times. Planned premium reductions among the insurers average 12.2% (Los Angeles Times, 11/29).
Employees are more satisfied with the quality of medical care if they select a familiar doctor to treat work-related injuries, and the cost to the employer is about the same compared with the cost of using an employer-selected doctor, according to a study by the Public Policy Institute of California, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The study was based on data from workers' compensation claims in California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Texas between 2002 and 2003. About 750 employees were interviewed in each state. The study examined employees who had seen a company doctor, those who chose a familiar doctor and those who chose a doctor they had never seen before.
The study found that:
- Medical payments were 10% to 21% higher when workers chose an unfamiliar doctor instead of an employer-selected doctor;
- Benefit costs also were 10% to 21% higher when workers chose an unfamiliar doctor over an employer-selected physician;
- Time away from work was 23% to 32% longer when workers chose an unfamiliar, doctor not chosen by the employer;
- Workers were 57% to 59% more satisfied with their care when they were able to select their doctor;
- 86% to 89% of workers who saw a familiar doctor said they were satisfied with the care they received; and
- Time away from work, medical costs and recovery for workers who selected a familiar doctor were not significantly different from those who saw a company doctor (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 11/27).