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The Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation (CHSWC) has released on its website the 214 page study, “Examination of the California Public Sector Self-Insured Workers’ Compensation Program” for public comment. This study was part of Senate Bill (SB) 863 Reforms, required by Labor Code Section 3702.4, to examine the public sector self-insured workers’ compensation program and to make recommendations to improve the administration and performance of the program. CHSWC contracted with Bickmore to assist with this requirement.

Recent municipal bankruptcies have drawn attention to public entity employers and the adequacy of the resources they possess to meet their workers’ compensation obligations. It is unclear what the impact to employees and taxpayers would be in the event that large or multiple public entities become unable to provide for their workers’ compensation liabilities.The purpose of this study is to identify variances in the performance of public employers’ self insured workers’ compensation and to recommend areas for improvement. In addition, the study is to provide information that facilitates benchmarking public self-insured workers’ compensation programs.

The study found that a self-insurer’s region has a significant impact on the claims costs. Self-insurers in southern California have experienced higher claim frequency, higher average claim size, and higher overall cost per $100 of payroll. Over the past several years this disparity between southern California and the rest of the State has increased. In addition, claims of southern California self-insurers tend to stay open longer in comparison to those in the rest of the State. The analysis of insurance company data by the California Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau (WCIRB) has also pointed to disparities between claim frequencies and costs between different regions of the State. The current analysis confirms that these disparities also exist for public self-insurers. Since one of the goals of the workers’ compensation system to have equal treatment of and benefits for injured workers, the authors believe it is worth exploring the root causes of this disparity.

The type of agency has a major impact on the loss rates, claims sizes, and claims frequencies. Municipalities tend to have the highest costs, whereas educational entities (schools, colleges, and universities) have the lowest. Over the past several years the cost of municipal claims has risen at a faster pace than that of counties or educational entities. This is primarily due to increases in the average claim size. Also, claims of education self-insurers tend to close faster in comparison to those of counties and cities.

In general, JPAs have experienced lower costs per $100 of payroll than individual self-insurers. However, JPA costs have been increasing at a faster rate than those of individual self-insurers over the past several years.

The study found almost no difference in loss rates between self-insurers that utilize a TPA versus those that self-administer. Those that self-administer tend to have a higher claim frequency, but this is offset by a lower average claim size. In addition, loss rates have been increasing at a slower pace for those that self-administer than for those that utilize a TPA.