Workers compensation

Wisconsin insurance officials will soon consider a proposal to lower insurance rates for workers’ compensation in the state.

The Wisconsin Compensation Rating Bureau has proposed decreasing workers’ compensation insurance rates by more than 8.8%, continuing a three-year trend in falling premiums. The bureau recommends premium changes to the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance each year.

Upon the office’s approval, the new rates could go into effect Oct. 1, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

Workers’ compensation insurance covers employees hurt on the job and is paid for by employers.

Some employers point to a small decline in reported injuries and illnesses as a reason for the falling rates.

Wisconsin employers reported a total of 82,400 injuries and illnesses in 2017, roughly 300 less than 2016, according to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. But the state’s rate of workplace illness and injuries is still higher than the national rate, which totaled 3.1 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2017. Wisconsin saw a rate of 3.7 cases that year.

The findings come as Wisconsin sees its workforce grow older with many baby boomers reaching retirement age. State health officials have estimated that the number of residents 65 and older will increase between 2010 and 2040 from 14% to 24%.

Health experts said an older workforce is usually more cautious.

“Somebody who is 55, generally speaking, is simply safer on the job than someone who is 25,” said Chris Reader, director of health and human resources policy at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

The Workers Compensation Research Institute also found that the cost of medical treatment for injured workers is higher in Wisconsin than many other states. But health providers argued that injured employees more quickly return to work in Wisconsin than other states because of the quality of care.

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