Businesses Should Spend Insurance Savings in W.Va., Manchin Says

Flanked by business and labor leaders, Gov. Joe Manchin on Tuesday urged the state’s employers to plow the $55 million they are expected to save from a workers’ compensation rate cut back into West Virginia.

Manchin also praised Monday’s Supreme Court’s decision upholding lifetime compensation benefits for spouses of workers killed on the job or felled by workplace illnesses. The governor said he did not expect any major cost increases from the unanimous ruling.

“I do not see that affecting the climate that we have,” Manchin said.
State officials announced Monday that a portion of the premiums employers pay to cover future claims and medical benefits would decrease 10 percent on July 1.

“We are challenging all of the businesses that are saving money to, please, invest that money back into the state,” Manchin said.

The governor estimated that employers have now seen costs drop for a total of $130 million since the state embarked last year on a plan to privatize its on-the-job insurance fund. The program became the BrickStreet Mutual Insurance Co. this year.

The rate cut reflects the adoption of a widely-accepted system from the National Council on Compensation Insurance for classifying jobs by degrees of risk, Manchin said.

Steve Roberts, president of the state Chamber of Commerce, joined the governor for his challenge.

“The changes that have been made to workers’ compensation have been working better for workers and working better for employers,” Roberts said.

Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation Director Steve White said his group also supported the challenge. White further praised a recent change that cut the delay in worker benefit checks from about two months to 15 days.