s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe

CALIFORNA – The halcyon days of diving California workers’ compensation insurance rates have finally subsided with the first of what appears to be across-the-board premium increases. Rates have exhibited signs of a potential change for months, and last week one of the state’s largest carriers filed for a 15 percent change. Prices in other insurance lines also increased, though some sectors provided some good news, namely vehicle insurance.For three consistent filings, the bureau responsible for recommending workers’ comp rate changes to the commissioner has advised insurers to increase rates, most recently by a mammoth 24 percent, citing continued underwriting below the cost of claims. Providers so far have held rates or continued declines in a soft market, but experts said many may be teetering near insolvency and a switch similar to the crisis in the early 2000s could be on the way.“There is a little bit of good news in that the rate changes so far are not the 24 percent increase recommended by the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau,” said Napa-based Sander, Jacobs, Cassyre Insurance Services President and Owner Jeff Erickson.“Although anything is difficult for employers to bear in this economy.”Most providers will file their rates by June 29 for policies beginning June 30, but some will wait until July 15. Some have already filed for changes this year, including several increases in May. Most pure premium rate changes were between about 4 percent and 10 percent, but some went as high as 33 percent.The State Compensation Insurance Fund, a semipublic insurer out of San Francisco, announced May 29 a 15 percent hike for polices beginning after July 1.“The principal driver of the premium increase is medical inflations,” said State Fund Chief Executive Officer and President Jan Frank in a release. California Department of Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner will review indicators affecting the comp market during a hearing today in Sacramento at 12:45 p.m. In the health benefits sector, local brokers said prices have continued the upward climb so far this year, mostly as a result of continued increases in the cost of providing medical care. Some reports have estimated increases of up to 15 percent annually for the last three years. As a result, more employers are buying into lower-cost, health savings account type plans. One recent census by America’s Health Insurance Plans estimates that about 8 million people are now covered by the high-deductible plans, which is an increase of about 30 percent year over year. Despite its increasing popularity, even those rates have started to rise at the same pace as traditional plans. “People are really being clobbered on the renewals” of HSA plans, said Scott Tree, partner for Benefits Health Insurance Services of Santa Rosa.“When they first came out, they seemed to have the least rate movement, and they were just bought by really healthy people. Now the whole product category is no better or worse as far as increases than the traditional market, but of course the rates are still much less. Where it used to save a business about 60 percent, now it’s more like 35 percent. It’s still better than paying for something you don’t use.”Auto insurance has been the one bright spot as the state’s largest insurer announced rate reductions last month. Premiums for about 3.3 million motorists with State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. will drop by about 8 percent beginning July 1. The change will save policyholders about $75 annually on average, for a total reduction of about $219 million statewide.