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W.Va.’s workers' comp rates among best in US

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia has the 12th-least expensive workers' compensation rates in the nation, according to a just-released study.

Alaska has the most expensive rates, based on rates that were in effect on Jan. 1. North Dakota has the least expensive rates.

The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services conducts the biennial study, which ranks all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

West Virginia was the 17th-least expensive state in the 2010 study.

In the latest study, released on Wednesday, Virginia had the fourth-least expensive rates in the nation. It was the only state bordering West Virginia that ranked better than the Mountain State. The others: Maryland, 18th; Ohio, 24th; Kentucky, 30th; and Pennsylvania, 40th.

Oregon researchers also compared each state's rates to the national median, or midpoint, rate of $1.88 per $100 of payroll. West Virginia's rate of $1.55 is 18 percent below the median.

The Oregon study confirms what has been widely reported: West Virginia's workers' comp rates have become more competitive. Overall rates in West Virginia have dropped by more than 60 percent since then-Gov. Joe Manchin and the Legislature transformed workers' compensation insurance from a state monopoly to a private, competitive market starting in 2006.

The rate reductions amount to $208 million in annual savings for the state's employers, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said at the Business Summit in September. There are about 35,000 employers in West Virginia.

Tomblin told summit attendees he is in no mood to entertain changes now. "My mentality is simple," he said. "We fixed it. Leave it alone! Privatization has been a huge success."

West Virginia Insurance Commissioner Mike Riley said on Thursday, "It is a good story. It is a good reflection of all of the work that has been done by all the stakeholders in this. It falls well in line with most of the reports and surveys we now see.

"We are well positioned and we do have some of the lowest loss costs in the nation," he said. Loss costs are the portion of a premium that reflects actual loss costs. It is a key ingredient used to determine workers' comp insurance premiums.

The timing of the Oregon study is nice "because on Nov. 1 we have another loss cost decrease which will be 9.1 percent," Riley said. "We expect it will save our businesses $37 million in premiums. Since 2006, we estimate it has saved our businesses $208 million in premiums. That is money they can reinvest in operations and employees instead of spending that money on premiums."

Steve Roberts is president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which advertises itself as the voice of business in the state. He also is a director of BrickStreet Mutual Insurance Co., which has the largest share of workers' comp insurance in the state. BrickStreet was created when the Legislature privatized the system.

Roberts said on Thursday, "The West Virginia Chamber is always happy when our business costs are reasonable and attractive. Reasonable business costs help us keep employers and attract new jobs.

"We compliment the work of those who have helped move our workers' comp costs to more realistic and sustainable levels, and we look forward to using these lower costs to help create jobs for our state's working families."

A summary of the Oregon study is posted on the Internet at The full report will be published early next year.

Contact writer George Hohmann at or 304-348-4836.


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