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The annual summary of public self-insured data issued on December 6 by the Office of Self-Insurance Plans (OSIP) offers the first look at the workers’ comp experience of cities, counties, and other public self-insured entities for the 12 months ending June 30 of this year, including the first 6 months of the pandemic.

The new report shows California’s public self-insured work force declined by 1 percent to 2.09 million workers last year, with wages and salaries for those workers totaling $137.2 billion. The public self-insured employers reported 108,080 claims last year, 7,437 fewer than in the FY 2018/2019 initial report, which was by far the biggest decline in the past decade.

While claim volume fell 6.4% compared to the prior year, medical-only claims accounted for nearly all of that decline.

Meanwhile, average indemnity payments per claim rose 16.9%, more than offsetting a 3.7% decline in average medical payments, so even though there were fewer claims, total paid benefits increased for the sixth year in a row, edging up by $2.2 million to a record $414.9 million for the fiscal year ending June 30.

The first report data on incurred losses (paid amounts plus reserves for future payments) show a somewhat different pattern for public self-insured claim costs.

Aggregate incurred losses on the FY 2019/2020 claims totaled $1.33 billion, 2.8% less than the first report total from the prior year. The 6.4% decline in public self-insured claim volume in the initial report accounted for much of the one-year decline in total incurred, while a 1.8% decline in average incurred medical also contributed a small amount, though it did not offset the 11.0% increase in average incurred indemnity, which led to a 3.9% increase in the average incurred loss per claim, which hit a record $12,309.

OSIP also compiles private self-insured claims data, which is reported on a calendar year basis rather than on a fiscal year basis, so the private self-insured data, which was posted in June, now lags the private self-insured data by 6 months. The next report on private self-insured experience should be released next summer.