1 STATE OF THE SYSTEM WCIRB REPORT ON THE STATE OF THE CALIFORNIA WORKERS COMPENSATION INSURANCE SYSTEM Introduction The workers compensation insurance system in California is over 100 years old. It provides workers compensation insurance coverage to more than 500,000 employers while delivering medical and wage replacement benefits to almost 800,000 injured workers annually. The Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California (WCIRB) is a licensed rating organization and the California Insurance Commissioner s designated statistical agent. As such, the WCIRB monitors the health of the workers compensation system and makes its data and analysis available to system stakeholders and public policymakers. This report, which the WCIRB intends to provide on an annual basis, summarizes the state of the California workers compensation insurance system as of mid The report is based on the experience of insured employers and does not reflect public or private self-insured employer data. In the report, we summarize the cost of workers compensation insurance based on premiums paid by California insured employers, show how those premium dollars are distributed among various system cost components, and detail the key cost drivers in the system, such as the frequency of workers compensation claims and the average cost of claims. We also provide a brief summary on how post-senate Bill No. 863 (SB 863) costs are emerging compared to initial projections as well as a summary of insurer combined loss and expense ratios and returns on equity over time. When appropriate, throughout the report, we have included comparisons of the California system to the systems in other states. (Information regarding the sources of data used in our charts can be found on page 31.) The WCIRB is California s trusted, objective provider of actuarially-based information and services integral to a healthy workers compensation system Workers Compensation Insurance
2 2 Notice This WCIRB Report on the State of the California Workers Compensation Insurance System was developed by the Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California (WCIRB) for the convenience of its users. The WCIRB has made reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of this Report. You must make an independent assessment regarding the use of this Report based upon your particular facts and circumstances Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including, without limitation, photocopying and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system without the prior written permission of the Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California (WCIRB), unless such copying is expressly permitted in this copyright notice or by federal copyright law. Each WCIRB member company, including any registered third party entities, (Company) are authorized to reproduce any part of this work solely for the following purposes in connection with the transaction of workers compensation insurance: (1) as necessary in connection with Company s required filings with the California Department of Insurance; (2) to incorporate portions of this work, as necessary, into Company manuals distributed at no charge only to Company employees; and (3) to the extent reasonably necessary for the training of Company personnel. Each Company and all agents and brokers licensed to transact workers compensation insurance in the state of California are authorized to physically reproduce any part of this work for issuance to a prospective or current policyholder upon request at no charge solely for the purpose of transacting workers compensation insurance and for no other purpose. This reproduction right does not include the right to make any part of this work available on any Web site or through any computer or electronic means for any purpose. Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California, WCIRB, WCIRB California, WCIRB Online, X-Mod Direct, escad and the WCIRB California logo (WCIRB Marks) are registered trademarks or service marks of the WCIRB. WCIRB Marks may not be displayed or used in any manner without the WCIRB s prior written permission. Any permitted copying of this work must maintain any and all trademarks and/or service marks on all copies. To seek permission to use any of the WCIRB Marks or any copyrighted material, please contact the Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California, 525 Market Street, Suite 800, San Francisco, California
3 3 CONTENTS ABOUT THE WCIRB... 4 EMPLOYER COSTS... 5 COST DISTRIBUTIONS COST DRIVERS SENATE BILL NO. 863 (2012) INSURER RESULTS SUMMARY CHART NOTES ABOUT THE AUTHORS... 33
4 4 ABOUT THE WCIRB The WCIRB is a private, nonprofit association of insurer members comprised of all insurers licensed to write workers compensation insurance in California. The primary source of funding for WCIRB operations is assessments on member insurers that are proportionate to their amount of written premium in California. No tax dollars or public funds are used to finance the WCIRB s operations. The WCIRB has been in operation since The WCIRB is a licensed rating organization pursuant to the California Insurance Code and operates as the Insurance Commissioner s designated statistical agent for workers compensation in the state of California. As such, the WCIRB collects a wide range of statistical information on insured payrolls, premiums, losses, and insurer expenses from each insurer writing workers compensation policies in California. That information is then validated, compiled and analyzed to provide the Commissioner, insurers, employers, and other stakeholders with important cost information related to the California workers compensation system. Additional Resources The WCIRB website ( contains a variety of educational information, including several pages devoted to explaining advisory pure premium rates and insurer rates. The website also contains various quarterly and annual reports summarizing the premium and claims trends that impact the cost of workers compensation insurance.
5 5 EMPLOYER COSTS The cost of workers compensation benefits provided to injured workers is funded by over 500,000 insured employers conducting business in California. The cost of workers compensation benefits provided to injured workers is funded by insurance premiums paid by over 500,000 insured employers conducting business in California. Generally, all California businesses with employees must either purchase a workers compensation insurance policy from a licensed insurance company or be legally self-insured under the regulation and oversight of the California Department of Industrial Relations Office of Self Insurance Plans. Insurance premiums paid by employers who purchase a workers compensation policy fund the cost of claims incurred during the policy period and related insurer expenses. Chart 1 shows the total premium generated by workers compensation insurance policies in California over time. (The premiums shown below do not reflect premium credits for policies that include deductibles.) Workers compensation premiums over the last several years have grown steadily, increasing 16% from 2011 to 2012 and 18% from 2012 to Chart 1: Reported Written Premium (Gross of Deductible Credits)
6 6 As shown on Chart 2, California premium now comprises approximately one-fourth of countrywide workers compensation premium. Chart 2: California Written Premium as a Percentage of Countrywide Premium Chart 3 shows the amount of the 2012 and 2013 California premium increases attributable to insurer rate increases, economic expansion as reflected in payroll growth, and a number of other contributing factors. By far, the largest contributing factor to premium increases over the last couple of years has been increases in the rates charged by insurers, although payroll growth has also contributed. Chart 3: Components of Changes in Written Premium
7 7 Chart 4 shows the average rates per $100 of payroll charged by insurers in California. Insurer rates have been steadily increasing over the last few years. However, current rates on average are not significantly different from rates charged in the late 1970s, as increases in employer insured payrolls combined with a steady long-term decline in the frequency of claims have largely offset rising medical costs. Chart 4: Average Charged Rates Per $100 of Payroll
8 8 Chart 5 compares the national median average charged rate to the comparable average rate for California. 1 Typically, rates charged in California have been markedly higher than rates charged in other states. In particular, California s high rates are largely driven by a higher frequency of permanent disability claims, high medical costs per indemnity claim, and higher-than-typical costs of administering claims. Chart 5: Rate Comparison Based on Oregon Studies California vs. National Median Average Charged Rate 1 The average charged rates shown on Chart 5 for California are, for purposes of interstate comparison, based on the state of Oregon industrial mix and, as a result, are not comparable to other measures of average charged rates for California.
9 9 The statewide average rates discussed above are based on an average of rates for the approximately 500 industry classifications in California. The underlying claim costs and resultant rates among the individual classifications can vary significantly due to differences in the inherent risk of a workplace injury among various occupations. For example, the risk of injury for a clerical office employee is much different than the risk of injury for a construction worker. Chart 6 shows the average January 1, 2014 advisory pure premium rate approved by the Insurance Commissioner for classifications grouped by industrial sector. (The pure premium rates, which reflect loss costs, including loss adjustment expenses per unit of exposure, are only advisory in that an insurer is not required to use either the approved pure premium rates or those proposed by the WCIRB in establishing the rates it will charge.) The average advisory pure premium rates for the clerical and information and professional services sectors are far below the all industry average, while the average rates for the construction and transportation and utilities sectors are far above. Chart 6: January 1, 2014 Average Advisory Pure Premium Rates per $100 Payroll by Industrial Sector
11 11 COST DISTRIBUTIONS The premiums paid by employers for workers compensation insurance policies primarily fund workers compensation benefits provided to their injured workers and the expenses insurers incur to deliver those benefits. The premiums paid by employers for workers compensation insurance policies primarily fund workers compensation benefits provided to their injured workers and the expenses insurers incur to deliver those benefits. These benefits include the cost of medical treatment for workers compensation injuries as well as indemnity benefits 2 paid directly to injured workers. Chart 7 shows the distribution of California workers compensation insured system costs incurred in 2013 by cost component compared to Injured worker indemnity and medical benefits comprised almost two-thirds (66%) of all 2013 system costs as compared to 60% in The cost of administering those claims, or loss adjustment expenses, comprised an additional 17% of total system costs in both 2009 and Chart 7: Distribution of Total Insured System Costs ($ s in Billions) 2013 ($15.6B) 2009 ($10.6B) 2 Indemnity benefits are provided to injured workers or, in the case of fatal injuries, to their dependents to partially compensate for lost wages, with additional benefits provided if a worker suffers a permanent disability.
12 12 Chart 8 shows the distribution of indemnity benefits paid in 2013 by type of benefit compared to what was paid in Temporary disability and permanent partial disability benefits comprise the vast majority of indemnity benefits (approximately 90%). Chart 8: Distribution of Indemnity Benefits Paid Injured workers receive a variety of medical treatments, which include physician visits, prescription medications, and surgeries. Chart 9 shows the distribution of medical benefits paid in 2013 by category of benefit compared to The percentage of medical benefits paid directly to injured workers, primarily in settlements for future medical benefits, increased by 5 percentage points over the last four years, while the amounts paid to hospitals decreased by 5 percentage points. Chart 9: Distribution of Paid Medical Costs
13 13 Chart 10 shows some of these categories of 2013 medical payments detailed further by type of medical service provided. Chart 10: Detailed Distribution of Medical Services Paid in 2013
15 15 COST DRIVERS The cost of workers compensation benefits is primarily driven by the number of claims incurred and the average cost associated with those claims. The cost of workers compensation benefits is primarily driven by the number of claims incurred (claim frequency) and the average cost associated with those claims (claim severity). In addition, the cost of administering these claims, or loss adjustment expenses, is a significant driver of total system costs. Claim Frequency Chart 11 shows the estimated number, or frequency, of workers compensation indemnity claims filed in California per 1,000 employees. As in other states, there had been a steady long-term decline in claim frequency. The indemnity claim frequency in 2009 was less than 30% of the 1991 level. However, after many years of decline, the frequency of indemnity claims in California has been increasing over the last few years. 3 Chart 11: Estimated Indemnity Claims Per 1,000 Employees by Accident Year 3 For more information on the 2010 and 2012 indemnity claim frequency increases, see the WCIRB s Analysis of Changes in Indemnity Claim Frequency and Analysis of Changes in Indemnity Claim Frequency 2013 Report released August 2012 and December 2013, respectively.
16 16 The frequency of workplace injuries can vary widely by industry. Chart 12 shows the estimated frequency of indemnity claims by industrial sector. Most industrial sectors experienced frequency increases over the last several years, with the largest increases in the Agricultural and Mining; Manufacturing; and Hospitality and Entertainment sectors. Chart 12: Indemnity Claim Frequency by Industrial Sector The frequency of claims can also differ across the various regions of California. Chart 13 shows the estimated frequency of indemnity claims by geographic region. While frequency in all regions increased in 2010, in 2012 the increase was largely isolated to the Southern California area. Over the last three years, indemnity frequency in Los Angeles County and the remainder of the Los Angeles Basin has increased by 19% and 14% in total, respectively, while frequency in the San Francisco Bay Area has decreased by 3% over the same period. In particular, the frequency of permanent partial disability claims including those involving cumulative injuries or multiple injured body parts has increased sharply in the Los Angeles area. Chart 13: Indemnity Clam Frequency by Region
17 17 Chart 14 shows estimated changes in indemnity claim frequency in California compared to a composite of frequency change estimates based on states reporting data to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) a nonprofit organization that provides a similar function to the WCIRB for many other states. For most years, California frequency changes had been fairly similar to the NCCI composite measure. However, in the last several years, patterns have diverged as California indemnity frequency has increased, while claim frequency based on the NCCI composite measure for other states has declined. Recent WCIRB research suggests that this divergence from national frequency patterns, at least in 2012, is largely attributable to frequency increases in the Los Angeles area. Chart 14: Change in Estimated Indemnity Claim Frequency California vs. NCCI States
18 18 Indemnity claim frequency in California is higher than in most other states. Chart 15 shows indemnity claim frequency per 1,000 workers across the country, ranking California as the 8 th highest state, with an indemnity frequency rate more than 46% higher than the median state. Chart 15: Countrywide Estimated Indemnity Claims per 1,000 Employees Many workers injured at the workplace will suffer some form of permanent disability, and claims involving permanent disability generate the vast majority of costs in the system. Chart 16 shows the percentage of indemnity claims involving permanent disability benefits for each state, with California as the 7 th highest state at 47%, which is thirteen percentage points above the national median rate. California does not have a particularly more hazardous industrial mix yet has a significantly higher rate of permanent disability claims than other states that utilize the American Medical Association (AMA) Guides 5 th Edition to determine permanent disability ratings. As a result, the differences from other states appear to be more related to the interpretation of the AMA Guides to determine permanent disability in California rather than the California industrial mix or the actual AMA Guides used. Chart 16: Countrywide Percentage of Indemnity Claims with Permanent Disability Benefits
19 19 Claim Severity In addition to the number of claims filed, the average cost, or severity, of claims is also a driver of workers compensation system costs. Chart 17 shows the average cost of indemnity benefits per indemnity claim. While indemnity costs per claim have more than doubled over the last 20 years, average indemnity costs have been fairly stable for the last several years. In particular, despite higher permanent disability benefits effective in 2013 pursuant to SB 863, average indemnity costs per claim in 2013 are less than 2% higher than in Chart 17: Estimated Average Indemnity Cost per Indemnity Claim by Accident Year Chart 18 shows changes in average indemnity costs for California compared to those for the composite of NCCI states. Changes in average indemnity costs per claim in California have generally been consistent with countrywide indemnity cost changes from NCCI in recent years. Chart 18: Estimated Change in Indemnity Claim Severity by Accident Year (California vs. NCCI States)
20 20 Chart 19 compares average indemnity benefits per indemnity claim by state as reported by insurers. California indemnity costs per claim are well above the median level. To a large extent, the higher than typical indemnity costs are driven by the high proportion of indemnity claims involving permanent disability benefits in California as was shown in Chart 16. Chart 19: Countrywide Incurred Indemnity Benefits per Claim Medical costs comprise approximately two-thirds of the benefit dollars in California. Chart 20 shows average medical costs per indemnity claim in California. While increasing almost five-fold since 1993, medical severities over the last several years have been relatively stable. In particular, early indicators of severity for 2013, the first year reflecting many SB 863 reforms impacting medical costs, show a small decline. Chart 20: Estimated Average Medical Cost per Indemnity Claim by Accident Year
21 21 Chart 21 compares changes in average medical costs for California with that for NCCI states. Estimated average medical costs per indemnity claim in California have been fairly consistent over the last few years while average medical costs in most other states have continued to increase. Chart 21: Estimated Change in Medical Claim Severity by Accident Year California vs. NCCI States
22 22 Chart 22 compares the average medical benefits per indemnity claim by state as reported by insurers. California reported medical costs per claim are among the highest in the country with an average cost more than 70% above the median level. Among the factors leading to this higher-than-typical level of medical costs are the high proportion of indemnity claims involving permanent disability, the longer duration of medical treatment in California, and a higher level of medical-legal costs. 4 Chart 22: Countrywide Incurred Medical Benefits per Indemnity Claim 4 The California Workers Compensation System: A WCIRB Perspective, WCIRB Annual Workers Compensation Conference, June 12, 2014.
23 23 Loss Adjustment Expenses In addition to indemnity and medical benefits, insurers incur expenses related to the handling and administration of workers compensation claims. These expenses, known as loss adjustment expenses", include the cost of insurer claims staff to administer the claims, the cost of attorney and other legal expenses in defending claims, the cost of medical cost containment programs, and other court and claims-related expenses. Chart 23 shows the average cost of loss adjustment expenses that can be allocated to a particular claim for California private insurers. Allocated loss adjustment expenses per indemnity claim have increased steadily since Instead of declining in 2013 following the enactment of SB 863, allocated loss adjustment expenses per claim increased by 7%. 5 Chart 23: Estimated Average Allocated Loss Adjustment Expense Cost per Indemnity Claim by Accident Year 5 The WCIRB initially projected an approximate 13% decrease in loss adjustment expenses following the implementation of SB 863. See Updated WCIRB Evaluation of the Cost Impact of Senate Bill No. 863, WCIRB, October 12, 2012 for more information.
24 24 Chart 24 compares ratios of total loss adjustment expenses to losses from California private insurers to similar countrywide ratios. Loss adjustment expense ratios are generally higher for California than for the average of other states. Among the reasons for the high loss adjustment expenses in California are an atypically large proportion of permanent disability claims, high litigation rates (particularly in the Los Angeles area) and a large number of active liens. The high frequency of independent medical reviews (IMR) conducted pursuant to SB 863 in California is also impacting loss adjustment expenses. Chart 24: Ratios of Loss Adjustment Expense Costs to Losses by Calendar Year
25 25 SENATE BILL NO. 863 (2012) SB 863 included significant increases in permanent disability benefits effective January 1, 2013 and 2014 and a series of comprehensive reforms to the California workers compensation system In September 2012, the Governor signed SB 863 into law. SB 863 included significant increases in permanent disability benefits effective January 1, 2013 and 2014 and a series of comprehensive reforms to the California workers compensation system. The WCIRB initially estimated that the combined cost impact of the SB 863 structural changes that can be evaluated including the Resource-Based Relative Value Scale schedule promulgated late in 2013 approximately offset the cost of the SB 863 permanent disability benefit increases. 6 The WCIRB provided to the California Department of Insurance a multi-year plan to monitor the emerging costs of SB The first report on emerging SB 863 costs was released in October of See Updated WCIRB Evaluation of the Cost Impact of Senate Bill No. 863, WCIRB, October 12, 2012 and the WCIRB s Amended January 1, 2014 Pure Premium Rate Filing submitted on October 23, Senate Bill No. 863 WCIRB Cost Monitoring Plan, WCIRB, March 27, Senate Bill No. 863 WCIRB Cost Monitoring Report Initial Retrospective Evaluation, WCIRB, October 28, 2013.
26 26 Chart 25 summarizes the WCIRB s prospective cost estimate of the key components of SB 863 and the preliminary results emerging based on the WCIRB s initial retrospective evaluation. While it is still premature to retrospectively assess a number of SB 863 reform components, in general, lien savings are emerging at a greater than projected level and, as discussed previously, 2013 indemnity and medical severities are emerging at levels generally consistent with 2012 levels. However, indemnity claim frequency is emerging at a higher rate than projected following the SB 863 permanent disability benefit increases. Also, in part due to the high volume of IMRs, loss adjustment expenses have increased rather than declined in The WCIRB will continue to evaluate post-sb 863 costs as they emerge. Chart 25: WCIRB Cost Evaluation of SB 863 Summary of Estimates ($ s in Billions) Indicates that the cost savings are emerging at levels less than projected or cost increases are emerging at levels greater than projected) Indicates cost savings are emerging generally consistently with projections Indicates that cost savings are emerging at levels greater than projected TBD Indicates that the reform component cannot yet be re-evaluated based on post SB 863 data.
27 27 INSURER RESULTS A commonly used measure to evaluate the profitability of insurers from an underwriting perspective is the relationship between losses and expenses to premium (typically referred to as the combined ratio ). A commonly used measure to evaluate the profitability of insurers from an underwriting perspective is the relationship between losses and expenses to premium (typically referred to as the combined ratio ). Due to investment income earned on collected premiums as claims are paid out over many years, insurers can generate a profit with a combined ratio above 100%, assuming a favorable investment climate. However, industry combined ratios significantly above 110% could, over a sustained period, threaten the competitive viability of the insurance market. Chart 26 shows the historical calendar year combined ratios of California workers compensation private insurers compared to the countrywide average for private insurers as published by the NCCI. California combined ratios, while improving, still exceed 100% and are above the countrywide average. Chart 26: Insurer Reported Combined Loss and Expense Ratios by Calendar Year
28 28 As mentioned, the combined ratios are ratios of losses and insurer expenses to premiums. These ratios do not include or account for the impact of investment income, federal income taxes, or insurer profits. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) annually publishes a summary of total insurer profitability by line of insurance and state based on calendar year information reported by each insurer to the NAIC. The NAIC estimates the total return to the industry after reflecting premiums, losses, and expenses, as well as allocations of an insurer s total investment income, federal income taxes, and policyholder surplus to California workers compensation. Chart 27 shows the estimated NAIC return on net worth for California workers compensation over the fifteen years through calendar 2012 and, for comparison purposes, also shows the Fortune Magazine allindustry average return and the total countrywide workers compensation return. California workers compensation insurance market returns have been volatile and, on average over the long-term, have been below the countrywide workers compensation average return as well as the Fortune Magazine allindustry average. Chart 27: Average Return on Net Worth
29 29 SUMMARY Chart 28 summarizes some of the key components of the California workers compensation insurance system discussed in this report and their comparison to countrywide workers compensation information where applicable. Chart 28: Summary of the California Workers Compensation Insurance System Component Recent Trends Comparison to Other States Premiums Double-digit increases in written premium over last two years California share growing to 25% of countrywide premium Insurer Rates Claim Frequency Average Indemnity Costs Average Medical Costs Loss Adjustment Expenses SB 863 Insurer profitability Steady increases, but comparable to rates in the 1970s Recent increases, particularly in Southern California regions Fairly stable over last few years Fairly stable over last few years 2013 increasing greater than SB 863 projections Some components emerging favorably (liens), some unfavorably (loss adjustment expenses), others too early to tell (RBRVS) Combined ratios improving but still above 100% California rates markedly higher than in other states California frequency is 8 th highest; recent increases differ from countrywide pattern California indemnity costs higher than countrywide median; recent changes comparable to countrywide California medical costs are among the highest in the nation California loss adjustment expenses typically higher than in other states N/A Recent California WC combined ratios higher than countrywide averages and long-term overall returns far below all industry average
31 31 CHART NOTES Chart 1 Source of the data is WCIRB aggregate financial data calls. Premiums shown are gross of any deductible credits. Chart 2 Data sources include WCIRB aggregate financial data calls and National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) May 8, 2014 State of the Line Presentation estimate is preliminary. Premiums are net of deductible credits. Chart 3 Source of the data is WCIRB aggregate financial data calls. Premiums shown are gross of any deductible credits. Chart 4 Data sources include WCIRB aggregate financial data calls and unit statistical data. Chart 5 The information in this chart is based on the state of Oregon biennial rate comparison and is based on the state of Oregon classification mix and, as a result, the California average rates shown on this exhibit differ from other measures of the average California rate. Chart 6 The average rates shown are based on advisory pure premium rates effective January 1, Pure premium rates only reflect the estimated cost of losses and loss adjustment expenses and do not include other insurer expenses, taxes, or profit loadings. The source is WCIRB unit statistical data. The average rates shown are based on policy year 2011 payroll distribution Chart 7 The source of the data is WCIRB aggregate financial data calls. Chart 8 The source of the data is WCIRB aggregate financial data calls. Chart 9 The source of the data is WCIRB aggregate financial data calls. Chart 10 The source of the data is WCIRB medical transaction data. Chart 11 The information in this graph through accident year 2012 is based on WCIRB unit statistical data developed to the 5 th report level. Accident years 2013 and 2014 are based on changes in reported indemnity claim counts from WCIRB aggregate financial data calls as of March 31, 2014 compared to estimated changes in statewide employment. The 2014 estimate is preliminary. Chart 12 The source of the data is WCIRB unit statistical data at the first report level. The frequency is per $1 million insured payroll at a 2010 wage level. Chart 13 The source is WCIRB unit statistical data at the first report level. The frequency is per $1 million insured payroll at a 2010 wage level. Region information is based on the employer zip code reported on the California policy. Chart 14 NCCI estimates are based on the May 8, 2014 State of the Line Presentation (NCCI 2013 estimate is preliminary and the 2010 and 2011 estimates have been adjusted to remove the impact of audit premium and other factors). Chart 15 The source of the data is the NCCI Annual Statistical Bulletin for 2009 policy year at the first report level. Chart 16 The source of the data is the NCCI Annual Statistical Bulletin for 2009 policy year at the first report level.
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