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Castillo: A Manufactured Crisis

  • State: California

The Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau (WCIRB) released its 2019 State of the System Report last week, and it continues to paint a rosy picture for employers and insurance companies while workers get left in the cold.

Michael Castillo

Michael Castillo

Let's look at some of the highlights:

  • Since 2012, employers have saved more than $3 billion annually.
  • Average insurer-charged rates are down a third since 2015 and two-thirds since 2003. Current charged rates are at the lowest level in a decade and are lower than rates charged since the mid-1970s.
  • 2018 was the fifth consecutive year of a combined loss and expense ratio of 90% or less.
  • Average returns on net worth have increased significantly in California since 2012, going from 3% in 2013, to 7.9% in 2015, to 8.7% in 2016 and to 9.9% in 2017.

Despite these significant cost savings for employers and increased profits for insurers, the WCIRB continues to focus on increased claims frequency in the Los Angeles Basin and San Diego areas, specifically cumulative trauma (CT) claims, as a problem.

But this time, it has subtly changed the narrative.

When the WCIRB released The World of Cumulative Trauma Claims report last year, it attributed the increase in CT claims in the Los Angeles and San Diego regions to non-English speaking workers in the hospitality and manufacturing industries making less than $500 per week.

This earlier report clearly targeted immigrant housekeepers, seamstresses and other workers in the hospitality industries, which are some of California's most vulnerable populations performing literally backbreaking work.

Now WCIRB simply attributes the increase to workers making less than $500 per week.

Coincidence? Probably not.

A manufactured crisis? Seems so.

The real crisis: The insurance industry blames low-income workers for getting injured while working the toughest jobs, then trying to evade its original depiction of said workers.

Michael Castillo is communications director for the California Applicants' Attorneys Association. This opinion is republished, with permission, from the CAAA website.

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