Rivers supports new reform of state’s industrial-insurance monopoly

Sen. Ann RiversSen. Ann Rivers today helped pass a bill that could stave off an increase in the premiums paid by Washington workers and employers for the industrial insurance commonly known as workers’ compensation.

“Although our state’s economy is slowly improving employment in Washington is generally well below the pre-recession level. I’d rather allow employers to spend their money on hiring employees than send a larger check to Olympia,” said Rivers, R-La Center, who is also among the co-sponsors of Senate Bill 5127. “Employees pay into the workers’ compensation system also, so this bill looks out for them as well.”

Washington employers not large enough to self-insure have no choice but to buy industrial insurance from the state. Until 2011, workers whose on-the-job injuries resulted in claims had no choice but to stay off work and accept benefits instead. That year workers age 55 and up gained the option of settling claims in a structured fashion; SB 5127 would lower to age 40 the level at which an injured worker would have the settlement choice.

Rivers pointed out that the change still would not force injured workers to trade what’s called a “pension” – benefits that are paid indefinitely – for a structured settlement. However, if estimates are correct about the number of injured workers who would take advantage of the settlement option, SB 5127 could result in a one-time savings of $232 million and annual savings of $90 million, which can only help avoid an increase in workers’ comp premiums.

“I hope there’s no truth to the rumors that the House majority party may take a pass on considering this bill,” said Rivers, noting the Legislature has just two more days to work before its special session has to conclude. “If this legislation does what I hope, it will have a positive effect not only on the bottom lines of Washington employers but also the pay stubs of employees.”