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Health insurance premiums were up nearly 20 percent in 2002 for distributors, according to a survey by NAW. The average cost of workers compensation insurance has risen by 50 percent nationally in the past three years, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a New York-based trade group.
Workers compensation is regulated state by state; many states are beginning to address this issue. We are entering back into a cycle where insurers are boosting premiums because the high-yield returns of the 1990s are gone. Anyone who has lived in a state with rapidly rising workers comp rates (several Midwest states in the late 1980s for example) knows too well the devastating impact on competitiveness. Businesses move or expand to other states with lower rates. Smaller businesses that supply these companies cut jobs, go out of business, or move to the states where customers went as quickly as possible.
While there are strategies for managing healthcare premium costs (more on this in coming issues of MDM), workers comp leaves less flexibility. The primary way to manage drastic increases in premiums is to cut payroll.
It will take a strong business lobby state by state to get this problem knocked down. Too many distributors have seen their customer base reduced. We can't afford to watch the insurance industry create another barrier to getting a five-percent sales increase.