Montana work comp premiums could go down after report shows lower costs

HELENA – A national analysis says the cost to provide workers’ compensation coverage in Montana is going down, which could mean businesses around the state will have to pay less in insurance premiums.

“We fully anticipate that there will be across-the-board reductions in the premiums charged to our businesses, which obviously is always a really good thing,” said State Auditor Matt Rosendale, Montana’s insurance commissioner.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance released an annual report, in which it proposed reducing the statewide “advisory loss cost” by 10.7 percent, starting July 1, 2018. Rosendale approved the reduction this week.

Private insurers and the Montana State Fund use the loss cost number as a basis when determining what they charge businesses for workers’ compensation insurance.

The NCCI report cited several years of falling costs for the workers’ compensation system in Montana. It highlighted a consistent drop in the number of lost-time claims workers have filed.

Rosendale said workers’ compensation loss costs have been consistently going down in Montana for a number of years, but that this is the largest decrease in seven years. He credited legislative reforms that allow cases to be resolved more quickly.

Rosendale also praised businesses for focusing on improving workplace conditions.

“There has been an improvement in safety, and certainly a big emphasis on safety through the business community around the entire state,” he said.

Insurers must now file new rates for the 2018-2019 fiscal year with the auditor’s office.

Kevin Braun, Montana State Fund’s general counsel, said he does expect the fund will be able to lower premiums. But he said the change likely won’t be as large as 10 percent, since many of the fund’s other costs will not be decreasing.

“You still have to pay your claims adjusters,” Braun said.

The State Fund will start discussing their new rate during a meeting with the auditor’s office next month.