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Commissioner Jones advises workers’ compensation insurers reduce rates by 16.5 percent

News: 2017 Press Release

For Release: May 22, 2017
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Commissioner Jones advises workers’ compensation insurers reduce rates by 16.5 percent
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones adopted and issued a revised advisory pure premium rate lowering the benchmark to $2.02 per $100 of payroll for workers' compensation insurance, effective July 1, 2017. This is 16.5 percent less than the average pure premium rate of $2.42 California insurers filed as of January 1, 2017.

Commissioner Jones adopted the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau (WCIRB)'s recommendation to lower the advisory pure premium rate mid-year. Mid-year pure premium rate adjustments are not the norm—new data reflecting a significant change in underlying workers' compensation costs is required before the commissioner will issue a mid-year adjustment.

Jones issued the mid-year advisory pure premium rate two weeks after a public hearing and careful review of the testimony and evidence submitted. His adoption is only advisory, as the commissioner has no rate authority over workers' compensation.

"A reduction in the pure premium rate reflects a reduction in the cost to insurers of providing workers' compensation insurance, which benefits California's business economy if insurers lower their pricing," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "However, there is no legal requirement that these insurers pass these cost savings onto employers, so workers' compensation insurers continue to file pure premium rates that are higher than the pure premium rate warranted by their costs."

The mid-year pure premium advisory rate reduction is based on insurers' cost data indicating workers' compensation insurers' medical costs were lower in 2016. Insurers' net costs in the workers' compensation system continue to decline as a result of SB 863 and other reform laws enacted by the Legislature and Governor Brown. The WCIRB claims the downward medical loss development is in part driven by continued acceleration in claim settlement, decreasing indemnity claim frequency, and lower than projected loss adjustment expenses.

The WCIRB's pure premium advisory rate filing demonstrated workers' compensation insurers continue to charge premiums, which are close to the estimated cost of providing benefits and adjusting expenses. The rates actually charged to employers; however, are on average lower than the rates filed by insurers.

The WCIRB will evaluate workers' compensation insurance costs again in the summer and fall of this year when it files its 2018 pure premium rate benchmark recommendation with the Department of Insurance. That filing will provide an opportunity to assess whether medical costs continue to be lower and what changes, if any, there are in other costs in the system.

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Media Notes:

  • The commissioner has the authority to regulate auto, home, and property insurance rates and has saved consumers and businesses $2.6 billion in rates by rejecting excessive rates or rate increases for those lines of insurance, but the Legislature has not given the commissioner the authority to regulate workers' compensation rates. Workers' compensation insurance rates are not set by the Department of Insurance. Under California law, workers' compensation insurers set their own rates. 
  • The purpose of the pure premium benchmark rate process is to review costs in the workers' compensation insurance system and to confirm that rates filed by insurance companies are adequate to cover benefits for injured workers.
  • The mid-year pure premium rate benchmark of $2.02 per $100 is 16.5 percent lower than the average industry-filed pure premium rate as of January 1, 2017, which was $2.42 per $100 of payroll.  

The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $289 billion in premiums annually in California. Since 2011 the California Department of Insurance received more than 1,000,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $469 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance web site at Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP or 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.

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