THE SOUL FOR GETTING DOWN
Reduction in workers' compensation rates spread across the country this week. The Indiana Department of Insurance approved an average 12.8 percent reduction for workers' compensation rates for 2018. The approved rate decrease, the Hoosier State's 5th in a row, should result in savings of $102 million dollars for Indiana businesses. The Delaware Compensation Rating Bureau approved a 6 percent rate decrease, which will become effective December 1st. Delaware's rating bureau commissioner said that improvements in workplace safety will now translate into cost savings for the First State's employers.
WONDER IF YOU'LL EVER SEE THE SUN?
Even Florida businesses could see an average workers' compensation rate reduction of 9.3% in 2018, with steeper savings in the areas of manufacturing and clerical jobs. Pundits expected that the attorney fee case of Castellanos v. Next Door Company would have driven costs upward. But, given the proposed rate reduction, coupled with storm related legislative issues, it remains to be seen if the Florida legislature will resurrect workers' compensation reform in 2018.
ABOUT TO STRIKE?
Speaking of attorney's fees, the West Virginia Supreme Court refused to strike the state's workers' compensation attorney fee limitation in Bandy v. Murray American Energy, Inc. last week. The case involved a contested claim for psychotherapy. The court found that West Virginia's statutory hourly rate of $150, the additional bonus fee of $500 for non-indemnity disputes, and an aggregate attorney fee of $2,500 cap for all contested medical issues during the course of a claim, do not unfairly prevent injured workers from hiring counsel.
Montana's state-mandated workers' compensation insurance fund is returning a record $40 million in dividends to most of the businesses and organizations it insures. Similarly, Maine Employers Mutual Insurance Company has returned $21 million to the state's employers. About 18,000 employers in the state will see insurance returns from the Portland-based insurer. These refunds reflect the overall thrilling result of decreased frequency and severity in workplace accidents.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its latest traffic crash data. The report showed 37,461 fatalities on U.S. roads in calendar year 2016. This is an increase of 5.6% over 2015. The rate of 1.18 deaths per 100 million vehicular miles traveled translated into a 2.6% increase, year-over-year. Notwithstanding these statistics, the report noted a drop in overall fatalities tied to distracted and drowsy driving. Distraction-related deaths fell 2.2% and drowsy-driving deaths dropped 3.5%.
LARGE VEHICULAR ACCIDENTS
NHTSA also recorded a 5.4% rise in fatalities involving large trucks. This was the highest total since 2007. Of those 4,317 fatalities, 16.7% were occupants of large trucks, 10.8% were "non-occupants," and 72.4% were occupants of other vehicles.
Making Our Way Around The Country
Senate Republicans approved a $4 trillion budget measure this week. Passing a budget enables the GOP to pass a tax bill with a simple 51-vote majority in the Senate. Republicans described the tax plan as an "overhaul" of the American tax system, including a proposal to allow immediate expensing of capital investments, as opposed to a structured depreciation over time. Business groups from main street to the highways appear to be lending support to the tax plan. We're tracking the tax bill's progress.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced members of the President's Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion this week. Governors from around the country hope the Task Force, which represents companies, trade and industry groups, educational institutions, and labor unions will address the nation's skills gap and drive state employment opportunities. Secretary Acosta specifically called upon the trucking industry to play a major role in creating quality apprenticeship programs.
This afternoon, the Nevada Division of Insurance will hold a hearing on proposed rules relating to financial statements filed by third-party administrators. Another proposed rule would reduce the deadline to a period of 30 days for TPAs to report changes in members, owners, directors, officers, and mailing addresses. Duly noted on our end, Nevada.
The industry will gather Monday at the annual Comp Laude® awards to recognize service excellence and the power of positivity in the delivery of workers' compensation benefits. We appreciate this year's participants and honorees, who come from around the country, across the industry, and right here at The Way. Thank you for all you do to guide those suffering a loss to the best possible outcomes. Way to Go Beyond!
About The Way
The Way is Gallagher Bassett's weekly governmental briefing on state and federal affairs that affect our industry. We thank you for starting your Wednesday morning with us. Please be sure to follow #GBTheWay for additional news and updates as we make our way throughout the country on the issues affecting our industry. For more information, please connect with GB on LinkedIn, follow us on Twitter, or contact the authors, Greg McKenna or Cari Miller, directly.