This week, Sam Reed, Washington”s Secretary of State, certified for the ballot Initiative 1082, which would allow private insurers to offer coverage for workplace injuries. Washington State is one of only four states that does not allow private insurers to offer workers’ compensation coverage (although businesses can self-insure). In short, I-1082 would permit private insurance firms to compete with the current state system.
Proponents of the measure cite Washington’s increasing workers’ comp taxes as one reason to vote for the measure in November. They note that Oregon, a state that permits private insurers to offer workplace injury coverage, has not increased rates in 20 years and employers in that state are experiencing rate decreases in 2010.
Meanwhile, opponents of the measure argue that I-1082 goes too far. Noting that I-1082 “goes much further” than other states, they argue that it would (1) allow insurers to set their own rates without the approval of the Insurance Commissioner, unlike every other line of insurance in Washington, (2) exempt private workers’ comp insurance from all consumer protection laws, including the Insurance Fair Conduct Act, and (3) would eliminate the safety net of the Insurance Guaranty Act to protect workers and employers in the case of fraud or bankruptcy by an insurer.
Arguments between those for and against the measure are sure to escalate before the November vote. One thing is certain, if passed I-1082 would dramatically re-shape workers’ compensation in Washington State.
To read the Initiative in full, please visit: