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June 22, 2004

A tax on employers' workers' comp premiums may increase 6 percent
Insurance Department sets hearings on proposed 29 percent increase in premiums

Besides proposing a 29 percent increase in workers' compensation premiums, the New York State Compensation Insurance Rating Board (CIRB) has also proposed a 6 percent increase in workers' comp "assessments," a tax on workers' comp premiums that all employers must pay.

The assessment rate is now 14.3 percent of premiums. The CIRB proposal, which was sent to the state Insurance Department in mid-May, would increase the assessment rate to 15.1 percent. Coupled with its proposed increase in premiums, CIRB said, the assessment increase would result in a 30.2 percent increase in overall workers' compensation costs for New York State employers.

Assessments, which are a key part of the burden of workers' compensation costs in New York State, support the operational expenses of New York's Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) and various special funds supported by New York's workers' comp system.

Each year, the state Insurance Department considers the CIRB proposal and issues a final decision on changes in premiums. Many years, the department reduces CIRB's proposed increase in premiums. Last year, for example, the Insurance Department rejected two increases proposed by CIRB, 11.2 and 2.7 percent, before increasing rates by 1.7 percent.

But the state Insurance Department has no authority to review proposed changes in assessments, so proposed changes are automatically enacted. Last year, the assessment rate increased 10 percent, from 13 to 14.3 percent.

When word of CIRB's proposal first leaked out in mid-May, The Business Council expressed alarm, saying that the specter of even higher comp costs bolstered the already strong case for cost-cutting workers' compensation reforms.

The state Insurance Department has scheduled public hearings on the proposed rate increases June 28 in New York City and June 30 in Albany. The Business Council plans to testify.