News for Small Business - News for L&I small business customers and tips for saving time and moneyI

November 2010 | L&I's Small Business Liaison, Ron Langley and Aaron Hoffman Call: 1-800-987-0145. Fax: 360-902-5420. E-mail: SmallBusiness@LNI.wa.gov.

L&I proposes 12 percent workers' comp rate increase

L&I has announced a 12 percent average increase in workers’ compensation insurance premiums for 2011. Average premiums would go up by 6.5 cents per hour worked.

The new rates take effect Jan. 1, 2011, under an emergency rule that is effective for 120 days. L&I will hold public hearings in January to gather comments about the proposed increase before adopting permanent rates.

Find out your company’s 2011 rates now

Your 2011 rate notice will arrive by mid-December but you can get an estimate of your company’s rates now:

  • Find the published rate for your industry at www.Rates.Lni.wa.gov
  • Call your L&I account manager for an estimate of your company’s specific rates. 
  • To find your account manager’s phone number:
    • Check your quarterly report statement.
    • Call L&I Employer Services at 360-902-4817.
    • Find it on the L&I workers’ comp look-up tool at https://fortress.wa.gov/lni/crpsi/.

Controlling workers’ comp costs

Earlier this year, the Governor asked L&I Director Judy Schurke to convene a business and labor workgroup to recommend improvements to the state’s workers’ compensation system and propose legislation to create those changes.

“In the meantime, we can’t ignore the fact that the severe, persistent recession has increased workers’ comp claims costs,” Schurke said. “We’re able to hold down the rate increase to 12 percent largely because L&I has aggressively cut costs, including our own budget, by over $200 million.”

The same economic factors that affect workers’ compensation insurers nationwide are impacting Washington’s State Fund:

  • Injured workers are staying on benefits longer because there are fewer jobs.
  • Less money is coming into the system because of fewer work hours.
  • Medical costs and wages are up.
  • Investment earnings are down.

Washington is the only state where workers pay a substantial portion of premiums, about 24 percent of the 2011 proposed rate.

Public hearings

Public hearings on the proposed rates will be held in Spokane and Tacoma on January 4, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. at the following locations:

Tacoma Convention Center
1500 Broadway
Tacoma, WA 98402

CenterPlace Regional Event Center
2426 N Discovery Place
Spokane Valley, WA 99216

Submit written comments by 5 p.m. Jan. 4 to:
Ronald C Moore, Program Manager Employer Services
PO BOX 41440
Olympia WA 98504-4140

For information, a video and Q&A are available at www.Lni.wa.gov.

State minimum wage rises for 2011; Minimum wage poster phased out

The new minimum wage of $8.67 an hour will take effect on January 1, 2011, as required by Initiative 688, approved by voters in 1998.

L&I will no longer publish a separate minimum wage poster that reflects yearly changes to the state’s minimum wage as a way to save taxpayer money. Employers aren’t required to post a separate minimum wage poster. Information about the minimum wage will be available in other L&I publications and on L&I’s website.

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Resources

Updated website will make filing quarterly reports easier

L&I used customer suggestions to re-design its File Quarterly Reports online filing tool, making it easier to understand and use. The website still gives you two quarterly report filing options: QuickFile, which doesn’t require a login ID and password but has fewer filing features, and Claim & Account Center (CAC), which does require a password and has more filing options plus useful information and tools to help you manage your workers’ comp costs.

The new features now:

  • Make it easier for users to determine which of the filing options best meets their needs.
  • Save users time by taking secure access filing users directly to the CAC filing page without have to search for the prompt.

Need help logging into the system? Call the Web Customer Support Help Desk at 360-902-5999. Need help filing a quarterly report? Call your L&I account manager. Their number is on your quarterly report, or you can call L&I Employer Services at 360-902-4817.

New program makes health insurance more affordable for small businesses

Small employers can now offer health insurance to their employees at a significant savings for both the employer and employee through Washington’s Health Insurance Partnership, or HIP.

This federally funded program provides Washington small employers access to the same health insurance coverage available in the small group market, but the employer contribution rate is only 40 percent of the cost of coverage compared to the standard 75 percent. And employers who increase their contribution rate to at least 50 percent may be eligible for the federal small business tax credit, increasing their savings even more.

Small employers (1-50 employees) can enroll in HIP if they do not currently offer health insurance coverage to their employees, and if at least half of their employees are low-wage. To be considered low-wage, an employee’s monthly wages cannot exceed 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (no more than $10.41 per hour or $1,805 per month). Employers can choose from a variety of health insurance carriers and plans that range from low-cost, high-deductible plans to comprehensive coverage. Coverage begins January 1, 2011.

Low-income employees and their dependents also may be eligible for help (based on family income) to pay their share of the coverage. HIP has about $2 million in subsidy dollars available in 2011, and anticipates nearly $10 million per year in subsidies through 2014. Subsidies are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information, and to enroll in HIP, go to www.hip.hca.wa.gov.

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