California Workers Compensation in 2017: The Good, The Bad, and The Promising

california-workers-compensationIt’s hard to believe we’re approaching the end of another year. Time for holiday shopping, family, and good cheer. It’s also a busy time of year for business owners – a time to reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re going.

As you look ahead to another year, one thing is a sure bet – California workers compensation insurance costs will continue to be a major concern. But it’s not all bad news. Let’s take a look into the crystal ball and see what workers’ compensation has in store for your business in 2017 – the good, the bad, and the promising.

The bad news
The number and frequency of claims is still high, workers comp premiums continue to go up, and healthcare costs continue to skyrocket. For businesses with more than 100 employees, especially those with mostly labor-based employees, workers’ compensation will continue to take a toll. Adding to costs is the continuing trend of opioid drug use and physician dispensing of drugs.

The silver lining: by being proactive and making sure claimants on opioid drugs have a weaning plan from the beginning, and by making sure that you’re not paying for physician dispensed drugs, you can control much of these costs.

The good news
According to a recent report from the California Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau (WCIRB), the workers compensation reforms passed in 2012 under SB863 have reduced the state’s annual comp costs by $1.3 billion. Those reforms increased benefits for injured workers, and overall, there has been a 10 percent decline in medical treatment costs as a result of changes to liens, independent medical reviews, independent bill reviews, and medical provider networks, among other areas. So far, SB863 appears to be a big win for everybody.

The promising
Even with some costs continuing to rise, employers still have plenty of opportunities to keep workers’ compensation costs in check. Here are a few strategies to consider for your toolkit:

  • Keep safety and wellness top of mind. There’s nothing new about this advice, but workplace wellness and safety programs can play a substantial role in keeping workers’ compensation costs down, as long as you don’t get complacent.
  • Partner with occupational medicine clinics. Many employers are choosing to work with their insurance carrier or broker to foster relationships with an occupational medicine clinic to treat their injured workers. While different states have different rules on directing claimants’ medical care, employers can still create a word-of-mouth buzz about a favored medical provider. Establishing a relationship with a provider that specializes in work-related injuries can mean better quality treatment, quicker recovery times, and lower overall costs.
  • Embrace technology such as telemedicine. Having an injury triage hotline that allows you to connect injured workers immediately to healthcare professionals ensures they get quick, convenient care – and that can prevent more serious problems down the road.
  • Foster a RTW culture. Severity – the length of time the injured employee is off work – is the biggest cost driver in any workers’ compensation claim. So getting them back into the workplace as soon as possible is crucial for keeping those claim costs under control. It also shows that you care about them and want them to continue being a part of the team.
  • Communicate! Too many employers underestimate the importance of staying in touch with an employee who is off work due to an injury. Most injured workers rarely get contacted, even just to check in. That can leave them feeling out of the loop and increase the risk of depression, re-injury, or hiring a lawyer.

Need a California workers compensation insurance partner who has your back for 2017 and beyond? Contact us at Republic Capital Claims Administrators today.