Montana has long had one of the highest workers’ compensation insurance rates in the country. A fact that hurts many companies’ ability to increase their payrolls and invest in their operations. In 2006, the state Department of Labor and Industry and the Labor Management Advisory Council on Workers’ Compensation (LMAC) launched a comprehensive study to better understand why the state’s rates are so high. The study revealed three significant cost drivers.
- Safety. Montana has one of the worst workplace safety records in the country with an incidence rate that’s 47 percent higher than the national average. And it crosses all genders, ages and almost all industries. This is the single biggest factor in system costs, bar none.WorkSafeMT is addressing the issue with an approach that aims to create a excellent workplace safety culture statewide: by raising awareness, promoting best practices and role models of excellence, changing attitudes, and facilitating access to safety support, training, education, and technical assistance. WorkSafeMT created the highly successful SafetyFestMT program and we continue to support the ongoing management of this program by the Montana Deparment of Labor and Industry.
- Duration of Claims. When Montana employees get injured, they tend to stay out of work an average of 23 days longer than workers in other states with similar injuries. Studies show this increases overall system costs for wage compensation and health care benefits. It also hurts long-term outcomes as people tend to heal more slowly when they aren’t productively engaged.WorkSafeMT created Stay at Work/Return to Work resources and programs and advocated for funding to support assistance to meet the needs of both employers and injured employees. The Stay at Work/Return to Work program is now managed by our partner, Montana Department of Labor and Industry.
- Health Care Costs. Improving safety will have the greatest long-term impact on workers’ comp costs and quality of life for Montana workers. However, it’s also vital to address treatment costs. In Montana, 75 percent of system costs are related to health care and our average cost per case is 55 percent above the national average.To address this issue, in 2011 the state of Montana developed and implemented agreed-upon treatment and utilization guidelines for insurers and caregivers. These guidelines should help to improve access and speed treatment, while reducing system cost.