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Where does New York stand in workers' comp kerfuffle?

New York ranked fourth in the 2014 Oregon Workers' Compensation Premium Rate Ranking report. The report compares workers' comp premiums over time in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. As one of the most expensive states for companies purchasing the insurance, we were just shy of 150 percent of the national median with an index rate of $2.75 per $100,000 of payroll. Please note, that is the median, not the mean.

New York's premium rates for voluntary workers' comp coverage increased 28.7 percent from 2010 to 2014, the second highest rate of increase in the country. (Voluntary workers' comp covers job categories not mandated by state law.) More states reported decreases in premiums rather than increases over the same time period. The maximum and minimum premiums also declined going as far back as 2006.

We thought of the report as we read the ProPublica/National Public Radio series of stories about workers' comp benefits. The ProPublica website includes an interactive graphic showing whether a state has added benefits or cut benefits from 2002 to 2014. New York falls somewhere in the middle -- we have cut compensation a bit and capped some medical benefits, but we have also doubled death benefits for spouses and children.

The series is based on the premise that state governments are slowly but surely reducing benefits and increasing red tape for injured workers. The benefit cuts -- including cuts to wage replacement and medical care -- are so severe in some states that, as the articles puts it, "they virtually guarantee injured workers will plummet into poverty." Or they virtually guarantee that injured workers will end up enrolling in government programs like Social Security Disability rather than remaining in the system that was specifically designed to address their needs.

New York's employers may want to keep an eye on the debate. From the information in the Oregon report and the information provided by ProPublica, the Empire State could well be tarred by the same brush that accuses states -- rightfully, in some cases -- of catering to business interests and not taking care of injured workers.

New York has successfully held onto some arcane work safety laws -- the scaffold law, for example -- but that may not spare us involvement in a heated and costly fight that could last through the next election.

Sources:

Claims Journal, "The Demolition of Workers’ Comp: ProPublica/NPR Report," Michael Grabell, ProPublica, and Howard Berkes, NPR, March 9, 2015

Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, Central Services Division - Information Technology and Research Section, "Oregon Workers’ Compensation Premium Rate Ranking, Calendar Year 2014," February 2015

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