Wyoming To Study Workers’ Compensation

March 21, 2008

Wyoming’s Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee is set to study Wyoming’s workers’ compensation program this year.

According to the state legislature, the committee will conduct a broad review of workers’ compensation, including:

* The means for computing benefits. Most benefits are computed using formulas which change with inflation, but there are a few fixed dollar amounts that need to be reviewed;

*The administrative process by which benefits are calculated and awarded;

*Co-employee tort immunity, which has rebounded from a deficit in the 1980s to a cash reserve of $925 million this year.

Legislators and work advocates indicated they’re particularly interested in finding out information on reasons for the surplus, which has rebounded from a deficit in the 1980s to a cash reserve of $925 million this year. Worker advocates said the reserve was not the result of overpayment by employers. Rather, they said the surplus was built on money that should have been paid to injured workers but never was.

Rep. Tom Lubnau, a member of the Joint Interim Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, said he wants to examine the structure of premiums and benefits to determine if the program could sustain paying increased benefits to workers.

“I’m always hesitant to take short-term prosperity trends and extend those trends out into the future without detailed analysis,” said Lubnau, R-Gillette.

An attempt by legislators to increase premium rebates to employers recently failed when worker advocates persuaded some lawmakers to look into whether injured workers were getting sufficient compensation.

Pacific Actuarial Consulting recently assessed the state’s workers’ comp system and suggested the state needs about $642 million to cover benefits and liabilities. The group said a more conservative estimate of $848.7 million would be able to cover a major catastrophic scenario.

Sen. Charles Scott, co-chair of the interim committee, said adjustments made by the Legislature in the 1980s helped steer the workers’ comp fund into the black, but it took several years.

“The boom is going on now, and a lot more businesses are paying in,” said Scott, R-Casper.

Lawmakers said they’re also interested in studying the program because they don’t want to jeopardize its self-supportive status.

“We’ve got to look at the demographics of our workers, and what types of losses we anticipate in the future,” Lubnau said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Source: Wyoming Legislature

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