Workers’ Comp Rates to Drop Big

Workers’ Comp Rates to Drop Big

Where was that headline 11 days ago? 
On June 10th, the S.C. Department of Insurance put out a media advisory saying that its Director, Scott Richardson, had approved an overall 9.8% decrease in worker’s compensation insurance rates (technically the cut was to something called “Loss Costs in the Voluntary Market” but I don’t want you to quit reading).
A 9.8% cut!!!!!!  In his economy this is great news for small business but I don’t know that any of our daily newspapers reported the story.
In 2005, a 32.9% hike in workers’ comp insurance was proposed, and in 2007, a 27.7% increase was put on the table.  Several South Carolina dailies reported these stories primarily because the big business organizations pushed the news as proof that reform was needed and claimant attorneys were driving up premiums.

“Blame the lawyers, not obscene insurance company profits,” they said.

But when it came time to fight these rate hikes in court, the big business organizations were nowhere to be found. 
Only The S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce and the State Consumer Advocate went before a judge to successfully fight the proposals.  Turned out that lawyers weren’t responsible for increased costs at all – and the judge dramatically reduced the proposed rate hikes to 18.7% (http://www.scsbc.org/view_press.asp?id=199) and 9.8% (http://www.scsbc.org/view_press.asp?id=256)  respectively.

So why did no reporter in the state pick up this very important, good news story about our businesses possibly saving big on future workers’ comp premiums?
Two reasons. 
First, there are far fewer reporters at our daily papers, as I pointed out in Monday’s blog.  This is especially true for pure business reporters.  The remaining ones simply don’t have the time to find and report every important story.  And, I hate to say this, but there might be no business reporter in South Carolina that knows enough about workers’ comp insurance to even understand how rates are determined.   I only found out about this 9.8% cut from Mike Whiteley of Workcompcentral.com in Texas.

Second, big business unfortunately sets the tone for what is a business story in this state and they had no interest in pushing this good news.  A cut in insurance rates doesn’t fit their tort reform story line.   “Only by cutting lawyers’ compensation can we ever reduce insurance premiums,” they scream year after year.   Ooops.
The reality is that while some reform in the civil justice system might be needed, it isn’t the lazy, ineffective kind of simply capping damage awards and lawyer compensation.  But that’s a story for another day.
Today’s message is this:
  1. There are not enough hard news reporters at our dailies, and
  2. There’s an undeserved big business special interest influence on reporters.
Both are keeping you from really being informed – and that’s not good news.