Opinion editorial by Rep. Dan Kristiansen: Workers’ compensation reform measures would provide choice, affordability, stability
If we are to get Washington working again, the Legislature must move forward on a number of reforms in state government that would provide the certainty employers need to create jobs. Aside from dealing with excessive regulations, the dreaded Business and Occupation tax on gross receipts, and unemployment taxes, most employers in Washington (except for those who self-insure) must purchase workers' compensation insurance from the state.
Washington is one of only a handful of states that do not allow employers to choose between a state agency and private carriers when shopping for industrial insurance. This monopoly has been very costly to employers, not to mention the red tape involved with claims. Although the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) held rates flat for 2013, it is estimated workers' compensation premiums could be rising by about $110 million annually for the next 10 years.
That's one of the reasons further workers' compensation system reforms are needed so that we can bring stability and predictability to employers, give workers a choice in care, and avoid premium increases.
Several reform and cost-savings measures are making their way through the Legislature. They include:
- House Bill 1464/Senate Bill 5124: a wage simplification bill, would change time-loss benefits of injured workers from a complicated process that uses a sliding scale, to a flat rate, with a monthly minimum;
- House Bill 1097/Senate Bill 5127: would reduce the age restriction for structured settlement proposals to injured workers aged 40 and older;
- House Bill 1463/Senate Bill 5128: would give workers of any age the option to enter into voluntary-settlement agreements; and
- House Bill 1462/Senate Bill 5158: would limit liability of employers for failing to pay minimum wage or overtime compensation when the employer acted in good faith.
I encourage you to look up these measures at the Legislature's Web site at www.leg.wa.gov. The Senate bills have passed the Senate and are now in the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee. You can find when public hearings are scheduled by going to the committee Web page at: http://www.leg.wa.gov/House/Committees/LWD/Pages/default.aspx. I also encourage you to call the Legislature's toll-free hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and leave a message for the committee chair, Rep. Mike Sells, asking for the committee to take action on these bills.
Lower premiums, faster and better care for injured workers, a more efficient system, and providing choice, affordability and stability for employers – these are the goals of our workers' compensation reform package that would help to get Washington working again.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus and represents the 39th Legislative District. His office address is: P.O. Box 40600, Olympia, WA 98504-0600. Sign up for his e-mail update at houserepublicans.wa.gov/dan-kristiansen.