Tri-City Chamber backs insurance reform initiative

The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce has voted to support Initiative 1082.

The initiative calls for allowing private insurance companies to sell workers compensation insurance to employers in Washington.

It aims to end the state's centurylong monopoly on the sale of workers compensation insurance and to align Washington with the practice of 46 other states.

"The governor and the Legislature have not taken action on the workers comp reforms that have been proven effective in other states. We couldn't even get a hearing on a workers comp bill in the most recent session. Costs continue to increase and employers are frustrated," said Tri-City Regional Chamber Vice President Colin Hastings.

Washington's per worker costs are the second highest in the nation according to the National Academy of Social Insurance. And while improvements in workplace safety have reduced injuries 55 percent since 1990, claims are taking longer and costs skyrocket as workers are off the job until claims are resolved.

I-1082 proposes to create authority within the Office of Insurance Commissioner to regulate private insurers and certify that they are able to provide the benefits and follow the rules set out in the workers compensation laws, and to create a joint legislative task force to propose legislation to the 2012 Legislature conforming the state's existing laws to the new system.

It also plans to end the requirement that workers pay half of the premium tax for workers comp medical coverage, which accounts for $315 million, or about 18 percent, of the overall workers comp tax.