No premium rate increase in 2014: WSIB

Workers’ compensation premiums in Ontario won’t rise in 2014, according to the province’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Elizabeth Witmer, chair of the WSIB, cited continuing improvements in recovery and return-to-work outcomes, along with an improved financial picture for the board, for the stability.
“Results for the first quarter of 2013 show the system is progressing well towards its financial targets, including meeting funding requirements set under government regulation last year,” she said.

From 2010 to 2013, the board saw an additional $2.4 billion come into the system through premium rate increases and growth in insurable earnings, she said.

“At the same time, lost-time injuries have decreased, and better outcomes for injured workers have reduced benefit costs, saving the system more than $500 million a year,” said Witmer.

Looking back at 2012
The WSIB said it realized “significant improvements” in 2012 that helped it hold the line on rates for 2014, including:

• 92 per cent of all injured workers with lost time injuries were back to work with no wage loss within 12 months of their injury.

• For injured workers unable to return to their pre-injury employers, for the first two years of the Work Transition program, 69 per cent of injured workers obtained employment after completing their programs — an increase from 36 per cent success under the old, outsourced Labour Market Re-entry model.

• The length of time on claim and the number of workers requiring 100 per cent wage loss support has dropped significantly.

• Quicker referrals to high-quality health care providers resulted in fewer workers experiencing permanent impairments — down from 12.7 per cent in 2009 to 8.9 per cent in 2012.

• In the decade leading up to 2009, health care costs were escalating. By the end of 2012, better management has decreased health care costs by 10.5 per cent while increasing the amount spent per worker.

Service improvements
The WSIB also touted its faster-decision making. More than nine in 10 (92 per cent) of eligibility decisions are now made within two weeks of the claim being received, and more than one-half are made within 24 hours.

Employers are also embracing eService offerings, it said. In 2012, 94 per cent of clearance certificates were issued online, use of ePremiums increased to 47 per cent and use of eRegistration increased to 66 per cent in 2012.

And callers who phone the Employer Service Centre during regular operating hours “can now count on getting a live answer, not voicemail,” it said.

Dollars and cents
The WSIB said it has reduced annual benefit costs paid from $3.2 billion in 2009 to $2.7 billion at the end of 2012, a savings of more than $500 million annually.

Also, in 2012, employer premiums fully covered operating costs, which meant about $1.3 billion of investment earnings could be applied against the WSIB’s unfunded liability. In March, Witmer told Canadian Occupational Safety magazine the unfunded liability was down to about $13.3 billion.