West Virginia Lawmaker Says State Should Pay Firefighters’ Workers’ Comp

April 29, 2008

With the prospect of rising insurance premiums, some of West Virginia’s 424 volunteer fire departments say they’re worried about staying in the black.

That’s why Delegate Margaret Staggers, D-Fayette, wants the state to pick up the costs of the departments’ workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

The move would free up thousands of dollars for the departments to spend on equipment and training, Staggers believes.

“It will lessen the fiscal burden on departments and allow for some latitude in budgets, which many departments need in order to pay for equipment, training, skyrocketing fuel costs and other insurances that continue to rise,” said Thomas Miller, a 23-year veteran of the Sissonville Fire Department.

The move is prompted by the possibility that departments’ premiums will soon be going up.

Last year, the state’s lone workers’ compensation insurer, BrickStreet, said it paid out $3 million in workers’ compensation claims to volunteer fire departments, but the departments paid $500,000 in premiums.

That $2.5 million loss prompted the insurer to approach the state insurance office with a proposal to change how departments’ premiums are assessed.

Miller, though, said the 2007 figures are skewed because of two incidents that led to the deaths of four firefighters, driving costs up. He said BrickStreet should provide a five-year average of premiums versus claims.

Volunteer fire department budgets are dependent on a quarterly payment of $10,400 paid by the state and whatever levies are imposed by individual counties.

Information from: The Register-Herald,

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