Gov. Jack Markell announced that he has asked Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn to head the state’s new Workers’ Compensation Task Force. The group was established by the Delaware General Assembly and governor to address the 26 percent increase in average workers compensation rates over the last two years.
Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart cut the original rate request in half. However, industry representatives say further double-digit increases are likely. They have also warned of layoffs and companies moving operations out of the state in response to the higher premiums.
The governor and general assembly have also appointed a number of other task force members. Twenty persons will serve on the task force.
Denn, who worked with legislators in 2006 and 2007 to enact workers compensation reforms that cut rates by more than 40 percent, expressed confidence that the task force would be able to make recommendations that would stem the recent increase in rates. “We know this problem can be addressed because we did it six years ago,” Denn said. “The reforms we enacted worked. We need to find out what changed during the last two years and fix it.”
Theories have ranged from the economic downturn resulting in more workers filing claims to problems in categorizing worker groups used in calculating premiums
Denn said that the task force would hold its first meeting at 9 a.m. on February 8, 2013, and that meetings would continue through early May. All of the meetings will be open to the public, provide an opportunity for public comment, and will be audio-recorded and posted on the lieutenant governor’s website. Additionally, all documents reviewed by the task force will be posted on the same website.
“As the state’s Insurance Commissioner, Lt. Governor Denn played an integral role in drafting the 2007 update of Delaware’s workers’ compensation statute,” said Rich Heffron,Senior. Vice President Government Affairs for the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. “His experience and expertise will serve him well as the Chair of the Workers Compensation Task Force. I look forward to working with him and the other members of the task force.”
“We all know that workers’ compensation rates play an important part in Delaware’s ability to keep jobs and compete for new ones,” said Senate President Pro Tem Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere). “It’s important to Delaware’s competitive position to take a hard look at how these rates are set and see what we can do lower them.”
“I am happy to serve as a member of the Workers’ Compensation Task Force. Being an independent businessman for more than 40 years, I know that workers’ compensation is one of our most costly expenses,” said Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View). “I would like to see lower rates and it is my hope we can find a solution that is business-friendly.”