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UPDATED: Workers' compensation costs to drop for seventh-straight year - 09/09/19

Salem – Oregon’s long-running success in managing the workers’ compensation system continues as businesses will see yet another drop in costs in 2020 as the key factor behind annual cost changes dips yet again. The numbers are indicative of a long-term trend:

  • Employers, next year, on average, will pay $1.02 per $100 of payroll for workers’ compensation insurance, down from $1.11 in 2019, under a proposal by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS). That figure covers workers’ compensation claims costs, assessments, and insurer profit and expenses.
  • The pure premium rate – the base rate insurers use to determine how much employers must pay for medical claims and lost wages – will drop by an average 8.4 percent, under the proposal. In fact, the pure premium – filed by a national rate-setting organization and approved by DCBS – will have declined by 45 percent during the 2013 to 2020 period.

This will mark the seventh year in a row that businesses will experience an average decrease in their workers’ compensation costs. Those costs have steadily declined over the years, even as workers continue to receive good benefits. The ongoing decline in costs reflects Oregon’s comprehensive approach to managing the system, including efforts by the Workers’ Compensation Division (WCD) and Oregon OSHA. For example, WCD enforces requirements that employers carry insurance for their workers, keeps medical costs under control, and helps injured workers return to work sooner and earn their pre-injury wages. At the same time, Oregon OSHA enforces on-the-job safety and health rules, identifies hazards so they can be corrected, and advises employers about how to boost worker safety and health.
 
“The steady decline in workers’ compensation costs is about more than just the numbers,” said Cameron Smith, DCBS director. “It demonstrates the hard work of employers, workers, insurers, and government to maintain essential worker protection programs and robust benefits for injured workers while keeping business costs low.”
 
Although average workers’ compensation costs have experienced upticks from one year to the next, the overall trend line is one of continuing cost decreases. Average wage replacement and medical costs for injured workers “are showing a long-term downward trend,” according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), the U.S. rate-setting organization whose recommendation DCBS reviews. Meanwhile, “Oregon’s lost-time claim frequency has generally been decreasing moderately over the past few policy years,” according to NCCI.  
 
Employers’ cost for workers’ compensation insurance covers the pure premium and insurer profit and expenses, plus the premium assessment. Employers also pay the Workers’ Benefit Fund assessment, which is a cents-per-hour-worked rate.
 
The decrease in the pure premium of 8.4 percent is an average, so an individual employer may see a larger or smaller decrease, no change, or even an increase depending on the employer’s own industry, claims experience, and payroll. Also, pure premium does not take into account the varying expenses and profit of insurers. 
 
The average decrease in the pure premium reflects a long-term trend of lower medical care costs and less severe claims. Helping sustain the trend is the stability of Oregon’s workers’ compensation system. The system includes the Workers’ Compensation Division, Oregon OSHA, the Workers’ Compensation Board, which resolves disputes over the state’s workers’ compensation and workplace safety laws, and injured worker and small business advocacy services. 
 
Those successful programs are funded by the premium assessment.
 
The premium assessment is a percentage of the workers’ compensation insurance premium employers pay. It is added to the premium. It would increase from 7.8 percent this year to 8.4 percent in 2020. The increase is needed to partially offset the decline in pure premium and to keep pace with a growing economy. This modest increase maintains stable funding for state workers’ compensation  regulation and worker protection programs that preserve historically low costs.
 
The Workers’ Benefit Fund assessment provides benefit increases to permanently disabled workers and to families of workers who died from a workplace injury or disease. It also supports Oregon’s efforts to help injured workers return to work sooner – through incentive programs to employers – and earn their pre-injury wages.
 
The fund’s revenue comes from a cents-per-hour-worked assessment. It would decrease from 2.4 cents per hour worked in 2019 to 2.2 cents per hour worked in 2020. The fund is healthy, made so by a growing economy, which allows the rate to be reduced.
 
The decrease in the pure premium is effective Jan. 1, 2020, but employers will see the changes when they renew their policies in 2020. The assessment changes are effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Oregon’s workers’ compensation premium rates have ranked low nationally for many years. Oregon had the sixth least expensive rates in 2018, according to a nationally recognized biennial study conducted by DCBS. That was an improvement from Oregon’s ranking as the seventh least expensive state the last time the study was done in 2016. Oregon’s experience of declines in workers’ compensation costs is part of a national trend.

The following chart summarizes all of the changes and includes the date, time, and place of the assessment public hearings: https://www.oregon.gov/DCBS/cost/Documents/wc-summary.pdf

Annual Oregon average pure premium rate changes and average changes by industry: https://www.oregon.gov/DCBS/cost/Documents/pure-premium-rate.pdf

More information about Oregon workers’ compensation costs:  http://www.oregon.gov/DCBS/cost/Pages/index.aspx

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The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, visit http://www.dcbs.oregon.gov/.

Oregon OSHA logo
Oregon OSHA logo
Oregon OSHA offers free online training for ladder safety (Photo) - 09/06/19

(Salem) – Ladders are essential tools on a variety of job sites, easy to obtain and simple to use. As fatal injury and rule violation data show, however, their safe use is hardly guaranteed.

Help is now available: Oregon OSHA has launched a free online ladder safety training course featuring videos that walk employers and workers through everything from the types and dangers of ladders to safe practices and proper storage of ladders.

“With thoughtful planning and training, we can address the life-threatening hazards that come with using ladders while on the job,” said Roy Kroker, consultation and public education manager for Oregon OSHA. “This easy-to-use online course is designed to provide employers and workers with a solid foundation to build their own ladder safety program.”

The course includes interviews with Oregon OSHA and industry experts who discuss a comprehensive set of ladder safety issues. Those issues include choosing the right type of ladder for the job; heeding the ladder manufacturer’s instructions; addressing the common hazards associated with using ladders; and following ladder safety rules.  

From 2011 to 2016, the most common sources of fatal injuries from falls to a lower level were ladders (836 fatal injuries) and roofs (763), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Moreover, ladder use was the No. 6 most cited Oregon OSHA standard in 2018, with 148 total violations and initial penalties totaling $109,920. The standard covers multiple requirements, including that side rails must extend at least three feet above an upper landing surface; that ladders must be maintained free of slipping hazards; and that they must be periodically inspected for visible defects.

The ladder safety training course – which includes the opportunity to receive a certificate of completion – is the second of five online courses about fall protection that Oregon OSHA is releasing during the summer and fall of 2019. The first one was “Fundamentals of Fall Protection.” Courses addressing fall protection for roofing and construction, and walking-working surfaces are on the way.

The Ladder Safety training course is available online: https://osha.oregon.gov/edu/courses/Pages/portable-ladder-safety-online-course.aspx

Take the Fundamentals course: https://osha.oregon.gov/edu/courses/Pages/fall-protection-online-course.aspx

Oregon OSHA encourages the use of online training. Learn more: https://osha.oregon.gov/edu/courses/Pages/default.aspx

Oregon OSHA’s technical staff members can answer questions to help employers understand how to apply rules to their workplace:

Phone: 503-378-3272

Toll-free in Oregon: 800-922-2689

Email: tech.web@oregon.gov

Online contact form: https://osha.oregon.gov/Pages/Contact-Technical.aspx

Employers may also contact Oregon OSHA’s no-cost consultation services for help with safety and health programs:

Phone: 503-378-3272

Toll-free in Oregon: 800-922-2689

Field office locations and phone numbers: https://osha.oregon.gov/Pages/maps.aspx

Email: consult.web@oregon.gov

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Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state’s workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, visit www.osha.oregon.gov.

 

 

Attached Media Files: Oregon OSHA logo , DCBS logo
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DCBS logo
Southern Oregon event to focus on workplace safety, health (Photo) - 09/05/19

(Salem) – A three-day event in southern Oregon will feature a variety of workshops and presentations designed to help employers and workers improve on-the-job safety and health. Topics include electrical safety, hazard identification, fall protection, and safety committees.

In addition to tackling many standard safety topics, the Southern Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Conference – to be held Oct. 15-17 at the Ashland Hills Hotel and Suites in Ashland – offers special sessions for professionals in the construction, health care, and human resources industries. Those sessions include pre-task planning on construction sites, prevention of violence in health care, and understanding medical leave and workers’ compensation rules.

Meanwhile, the conference’s keynote speaker will illustrate how stress clouds your judgment and how to shift your state of mind to one of awareness and accuracy. On Wednesday, Oct. 16, Robin Rose, of Robin Rose Training and Consulting Inc. in Salem, will present “Safety on the Brain.”

Rose holds a master’s degree in counseling and psychology, and has been teaching, training, and consulting for more than 20 years. “When you are hurried, worried or distracted, your perception is not accurate,” she said. “That’s when accidents, poor judgment, and reactive communication occur.”

But people are capable of managing stress and making better decisions when they’re aware of when they need to and have the tools to do so, Rose said. “At this conference, we will look at four essential components to maintain a brain state that supports our health, as well as our rational thinking,” she said.

Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) encourages employers, workers, and safety professionals to mark their calendars for the Southern Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Conference. Oregon OSHA and the Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Society of Safety Professionals are co-presenting the conference.

Other conference topics include:

  • Occupational ultraviolet radiation recognition of chemical exposures
  • Exploring risk assessment
  • Excavation safety: 50,000-foot view
  • Total Worker Health solutions for chronic pain
  • Tips for more effective safety training
  • Safety behind the wheel: How to avoid distraction, fatigue, and other hazards of the roadways

Registration for the full conference, on Wednesday and Thursday, is $175. The cost is $100 to attend either Wednesday or Thursday. On Tuesday, optional pre-conference workshops – which include first aid/CPR/AED certification, flagger certification for traffic control in work zones, and professional development in leadership, teamwork, and communication – range from $50 to $130. For more information or to register go to http://safetyseries.cvent.com/southern19

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Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state’s workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, visit www.osha.oregon.gov.

The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, go to www.dcbs.oregon.gov.

 

Attached Media Files: DCBS logo , Oregon OSHA logo
Home Inventory Week sparks two tasks to save time, money, and stress following a disaster - 09/03/19

(Salem) – Lightning storms lit up the night skies sparking new wildfires, and a 6.3 magnitude earthquake shook the ground in Oregon right before National Disaster Preparedness Month. These stern warnings make it critical for Oregonians to get prepared for both natural and human-caused disasters.

September is National Preparedness Month, and it is kicked-off by Home Inventory Week.  To recognize this often overlooked part of disaster preparation, the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation encourages all Oregonians to do two simple tasks that will save time, money, and stress when disaster strikes:

  1. Build a home inventory – Take video or photos of each room in your home, paying close attention to walls, drawers, closets, and storage areas. Recalling your personal property is a daunting task following a disaster. A home inventory eases the post-disaster stress, and enables your insurance company to move forward with processing your claim.   
  2. Review your insurance coverage – Take time to discuss your policies with your insurance company or agent. Make sure you have the right coverage and know what to expect when you file a claim for disasters such as fire, earthquake, flood, tornado, theft, and ice storms.

“Recent wildfires and earthquakes reminds us how important it is for every Oregonians to build a home inventory and make sure they have the right insurance coverage to protect their families,” said Insurance Commissioner Andrew Stolfi. “These projects are easy to do and now is the time to add these money-saving, stress-reducing tasks to your to-do list.”

Oregonians are encouraged to visit dfr.oregon.gov/preparenow for videos, apps, and resources to help complete these simple tasks. The site also provides social media tools to help residents share their experience and encourage their families, friends, and neighbors to get prepared as well.

The division has joined several state and county agencies in a month long effort to help Oregonians get prepared for both natural and human-caused disaster. Follow the conversation on social media using these hashtags: #2WeeksReady, #NatlPrep. #PrepareNow.

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About DCBS: The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon's largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov. 

About Oregon DFR: The Division of Financial Regulation is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. Visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov and http://dfr.oregon.gov/Pages/index.aspx.

 

Oregon's top 25 most expensive and most prescribed drugs - 08/21/19

(Salem) – The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation has released the lists of Oregon’s most expensive and most prescribed drugs, as well as the prescription drugs that cause the greatest increase to health insurance plan spending.

Brand-name drugs such as Humira and Enbrel, prescriptions commonly prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis, topped the lists of most expensive and greatest increase to plan spending.  Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen, a pain reliever, was the most prescribed, along with several generic drugs treating conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

“These lists highlight the goal of the drug price transparency program,” said Andrew Stolfi, insurance commissioner. “They provide a first step to transparency for Oregonians, and help all of us better understand which prescription drugs affect health care costs.”

Each of Oregon’s nine insurance companies submitted the drug lists to the division, which reviewed and aggregated them to provide consumers a look at the common prescription drugs that have the biggest effect on health insurance costs.

The Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act (House Bill 4005), from the 2018 Legislative Session, established Oregon’s drug price transparency program. The new law requires prescription drug manufacturers and health insurance companies to report specific drug price information to the division.

Another key component to the program is consumer reporting of price increases. All Oregonians are encouraged to report an increase in the cost of their prescription drugs one of three ways:

The division is excited to bring one of the nation’s first prescription drug price transparency programs to Oregon. Top 25 lists and drug price information from manufacturers is now available by visiting dfr.oregon.gov/drugtransparency and clicking the Data box.

Later this year, the division will also hold a public hearing and begin providing annual reports to the legislature based on all the information received from manufacturers, health insurers, and consumers.

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About DCBS: The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov. 

About Oregon DFR: The Division of Financial Regulation is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. Visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov and http://dfr.oregon.gov/Pages/index.aspx.