NOVEMBER 29, 2018: California’s insured employers will pay less in assessments next year thanks to the absence of an assessment by the California Insurance Guarantee Association. However, costs to fund the workers’ comp system overall are on the increase. Assessments paid to support the Department of Industrial Relations and the anti-fraud activities of the California Department of Insurance and local District Attorneys are up for insured and self-insured employers alike.

Overall, the insured employer assessments handled by DIR are up 1.2 percentage points next year and will amount to 2.8% of each employers’ workers’ comp premium. DIR’s assessments were a hair under 2% of premium last year, and in 2017 they were just 1.1% of premium. These are offset for policyholders because CIGA is not assessing for 2019 which means a 2% saving or a 1.2% lower assessment overall.

Self-insured employers will end up paying more next year as they do not pay to fund CIGA’s operations and therefore are unaffected by CIGA’s historic decision not to collect an assessment next year. DIR’s assessments on self-insured employers are up 1 percentage point to 8.9% of the workers’ comp indemnity benefits that each employer paid out to injured workers. In 2017, the rate for self-insured employers was under 7%.

Earlier this year, the California Insurance Guarantee Association board of directors announced that they would not be leveling an assessment in 2019 for the first time this century. The association, which takes on the workers’ comp claims left behind by failed insurance carriers, is projecting that it has enough cash and investments on hand to pay off its workers’ comp liabilities.

At one-point CIGA had a $4 billion deficit on its workers’ comp accounts and had to issue $750 million in bonds to stay afloat. The turnaround is largely credited to the steady thoughtful leadership of executive director Wayne Wilson. Wilson is retiring this year.

The bulk of the increase in DIR’s assessments next year is going to fund the general Workers’ Compensation Administration Revolving Fund (WCARF) that is jumping from 0.8% of premium to 1.4% next year. WCARF was just 0.3% of premium in 2017. The revolving fund is largely the operating budget for the Division of Workers’ Compensation.

Also, on the increase are the assessments to fund the Division of Occupational Safety and Health through the Occupational Safety and Health Fund (OSHF) and for the Labor Commissioner’s office through the Labor Enforcement and Compliance Fund (LECF). The former is at 0.38% of premium next compared to 0.27%, while the LECF is at 0.34% compared to 0.22%.

Earlier this year, the California Fraud Assessment Commission also approved an increase in the assessment rate that employers pay to fight kickback schemes, medical mills, claimant fraud, and premium fraud, among other nefarious scams. Insured employers will be paying 0.29% of premium for these activities next year.

The assessments are fronted by carriers to the Department and then are recouped from employers as part of their workers’ comp payments in 2019. Self-insured employers pay assessments directly to DIR. The assessment letters are heading out today.

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Information courtesy of Workers’ Comp Executive