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Comp rates are high in SC

Workers' compensation premium rates in South Carolina are among the highest in the southeast, according to the widely reported 2014 Oregon Workers' Compensation Premium Rate Ranking Summary. At the same time, South Carolina seems to have stabilized its position against other states in the nation, after rapid deterioration between 2002 and 2006.

As of January 2014, Louisiana and South Carolina have the highest premium rates in the southeast at $2.23 and $2.00 per $100 of payroll. Rates in North Carolina and other states in the region are between $1.50 - $1.99.

In 2002, only nine jurisdictions in the country had lower premium rates than South Carolina; by 2006, it was a different picture as 26 jurisdictions had lower rates. In 2014, 34 jurisdictions in the country had lower premium rates than South Carolina.

Oregon's Department of Consumer and Business Services conducts the study every two years. The department says its study is based on measures that put states' workers' compensation rates on a comparable basis, using a constant set of risk classifications for each state. The study used classification codes from the National Council on Compensation Insurance.

The 2014 median value is $1.85, which is a drop of 2 percent from the $1.88 median of the 2012 study. National premium rate indices range from a low of $0.88 in North Dakota to a high of $3.48 in California. Other states with the highest rates are, respectively, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Alaska. At the other end, Indiana, Arkansas, Virginia, and Massachusetts boast the lowest rates in the country.

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Officials in states which rank poorly are among those who say the biennial study doesn't really say much about a state's workers' compensation system. For instance, states with more generous benefits for injured workers would likely not do well in the study. Mike Manley, research coordinator at the Oregon agency, agrees the study doesn't express the cost-effectiveness of a system.

"You have to be determining whether your system is meeting other goals, like getting people effective medical treatment, getting people back to work ... minimizing injuries and resolving disputes," he said in an interview with Business Insurance.

California had a stiffer reaction. "There is nothing in the Oregon study to compare the differential coverage and benefits and medicallegal appeals system that each state offers," Christine Baker, director of the California Department of Industrial Relations, told the publication. "At the extreme, a state could drastically reduce its scope and level of benefits in order to reduce costs and do "better' in the Oregon comparison," she added.

Oregon officials also caution against making too much of the study. For one, the latest rankings show 21 states within 10% of the median, and the range from highest and lowest rankings has been shrinking. Some states may have enacted reforms that have yet to show results.

"We're always trying to tell other states ... that we're describing you, we're not evaluating you. We're not saying you're doing well (or) you"re doing poorly. It's a description of one aspect of your system," Mr. Manley noted to Business Insurance.



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