In a testament to what Montana can accomplish when it really puts its mind to it, the state has managed to turn its workers’ compensation numbers around in just three years.
This isn’t news to anyone in Montana who pays workers’ comp premiums. But most of these folks will also remember what things were like in 2010, when Montana had the highest workers’ comp premium rates in the nation.
Montana’s abysmally high rates were a product of too frequent workplace injuries, high claim rates and other factors. Starting during the 2011 Legislature, however, Montana began taking steps to address those factors and drive down the costs.
Those efforts not only appear to have been successful, they appear to be still paying off. Just last month, the Montana Department of Labor reported that the number of workers’ comp injury claims fell by about 4 percent since last year.
Fewer workplace injuries and fewer claims, of course, translate into lower costs for workers’ comp insurance. And in fact, a 6 percent rate decrease already went into effect on July 1 for the Montana State Fund’s 26,000 employers — welcome news for those who purchase workers’ comp insurance from the largest workers’ comp insurance company in the state.
But by far the biggest premium reduction came after the 2011 legislative session. That year, a 22 percent reduction helped drive down Montana’s workers’ comp rate ranking from most expensive to eighth-most expensive of the 50 states.
Unfortunately, Montana still has a relatively high rate of workplace injuries — and workers’ comp rate. A stronger focus on improving workplace safety will undoubtedly help improve this.
Department of Labor Commissioner Pam Bucy says that the agency will be reconvening the Labor Management Advisory Council to further study the impact of reform legislation. Hopefully this council will hit on some strategies to continue making headway.
At least Montana is finally headed in the right direction.
This editorial first appeared in the Missoulian