Medical-loss payments last year increased 8.3 percent to $5.2 billion, according to the latest annual report from the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California.

That amounts to 61 percent of total loss payments, according to the San Francisco-based bureau. Of those payments, $1.9 billion were paid to physicians for medical treatment, $1.5 billion directly to injured workers, $800 million to hospitals, $500 million to pharmacies and $200 million to medical-legal expenses, according to the bureau.

Medical-cost-containment programs in 2013 totaled $446 million, up 7.7 percent from $414 million the previous year.

Indemnity benefits in 2013 totaled $3.4 billion, or 39 percent of payments. Of that total, temporary disability benefits totaled $1.6 billion, while $1.4 billion went toward permanent partial disability benefits.  

Total insurer loss during 2013 reached $10.3 billion, up nearly 12 percent from $9.2 billion the prior year, according to the report.

Yet the combined loss-and-expense ratio improved over the previous year, coming in at 108 percent in 2013, compared with 115 percent in 2012.

Total loss adjustment expenses incurred in 2013 were $2.6 billion, up 18.2 percent from $2.2 billion the year prior.Medical losses (in millions of dollars) Recipient20122013Physicians$1,700$1,900Injured workers$1,300$1,500Hospitals$879$838Pharmacies$418$472Cost-containment programs (medical loss only)$245$217Medical-legal evaluations$192$174Medicare set-aside accounts$92$129Reimbursements to Medicare$3$6Other$5$16Total$4,800$5,200

Source: Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California***

Irvine-based Burnham Benefits Insurance Services, Inc., which operates a San Rafael location, and G2 Insurance Services, LLC, a full-service property and casualty firm based in San Francisco, established a business partnership designed to provide each company's clients with a more robust offering of specialty services.

Burnham said "alignment of service models, core values and company cultures led to the formation of this business alliance, which both companies believe will help better serve new and existing clients."

Burnham Benefits clients will have the opportunity to work with property and casualty policy professionals, while G2 clients gain access to Burnham's employee benefits offerings, the firms said. The alliance includes a referral partnership agreement, as well as plans to share knowledge, resources, staff and infrastructure. Employees from each firm will also have access to shared space in one another's offices.

G2 is the former San Francisco firm Goldman Insurance Services. It said it has grown rapidly over the past year and a half, up 65 percent in 2013. During this time, the firm said its clients needed access to the types of resources and service offerings Burnham Benefits is able to provide.

Burnham Benefits also said it has grown quickly, at an annual rate of 20 percent. Since 2011, Burnham has expanded to six locations in California.***

Details of a new risk management option, known as Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, designed to offer flexible coverage options for specialty crop, organic and diversified crop producers were recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Crop insurance has been the linchpin of the farm safety net for years and continues to grow as the single most important factor in protecting producers of all sizes from the effects of unpredictable weather," said Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. "Providing farmers the option to insure their whole farm at once gives farmers more flexibility, promotes crop diversity and helps support the production of healthy fruits and vegetables. More flexibility also empowers farmers and ranchers to make a broader range of decisions with their land, helping them succeed and strengthening our agriculture economy."

Many fruit and vegetable crops in the past have not had crop-insurance programs designed for them. That made it less attractive for a farmer who primarily planted a commodity crop such as wheat or corn to use another part of the land for growing fruits and vegetables or other specialty crops, according to the USDA.

The 2014 Farm Bill requires a whole-farm policy option and paves the way for the Risk Management Agency (www.rma.usda.gov) to make it broadly available to specialty crop, organic and diversified growers. The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation board of directors approved the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection pilot policy for the agency to offer it through the federal crop insurance program next year.

The USDA said it has been strengthening crop insurance by providing more risk-management options for farmers and ranchers. The policy offers coverage levels from 50 percent to 85 percent. Farm diversification is recognized through qualification for the highest coverage levels along with premium rate discounts for multiple crops....

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