The WCIRB published its Quarterly Experience Report as of March 31, 2020.
Written premium for 2019 is 7% below that for 2018 and 12% below the peak in 2016. And premium continues decline in 2020. Written premium for the first quarter of 2020 is 5% below that for the first quarter of 2019.
With the COVID-19 pandemic-related economic slowdown, the WCIRB expects employer payroll and insurer premium to decline sharply for the remainder of 2020 compared to 2019.
And rates have declined as well. The average charged rate for the first quarter of 2020 is 7% below that for 2019 and 39% below the peak in 2014. The January 1, 2020 approved advisory pure premium rates are on average 47% below those for January 1, 2015.
And the loss ratio is increasing. The projected loss ratio for 2019 is 5 points above that for 2018, primarily driven by lower premium rates. These ultimate projections as of March 31, 2020 are generally consistent with those as of recent prior quarters as the trends in downward loss development have moderated through March31, 2020.
Loss development for the remainder of 2020 will likely by impacted by the pandemic and stay-at-home orders.
The projected combined ratio for 2019 is 8 points higher than 2018 and 16 points higher than the low point in 2016 as premium levels have dropped while claim frequency and severity increased moderately.
Despite the recent increase, combined ratios for 2013 through 2019 are below 100% and are the lowest since the 2003 through 2007 period.
The COVID-19 crisis is likely to significantly reduce premium levels in 2020 and may increase overall costs leading to further increases in the combined ratio.
There is however some good news. Indemnity claims have settled quicker over the last several years, largely driven by SB 863 and SB1160 reforms. The ratio for 2019 is consistent with 2018, suggesting claim settlement rates may be plateauing.
Claim activity is expected to slow down in the second quarter of 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Indemnity claim frequency increased by 11% from 2009 to 2014, but decreased by 9% from 2014 to 2018. Indemnity claim frequency increased modestly in 2019. Data through the first quarter of 2020 shows relatively flat frequency.
The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on overall 2020 claim frequency is not yet clear. Although many claims arising from exposure to the virus continue to be filed, the slowdown in economic activity is expected to reduce claim filings.