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According to the annual study done by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau, California employers' costs of providing workers' compensation insurance rose slightly in 2011, but are not quite half of what they were before the major reforms of 2004.
The study showed that the average cost of workers' comp insurance rose from $2.32 per $100 of payroll in 2010 to $2.37 in 2011 as payouts to injured workers and their medical care providers also rose from $7.8 billion to $8.1 billion.
In 2003, coverage averaged $6.29 per $100 of payroll but after the reforms, which tightened eligibility for benefits, it dropped to as low as $2.16 in 2008 before beginning a slow rise. Payouts also dropped from $12.3 billion in 2002 to as low as $6.7 billion in 2005 before also beginning a slow rise.
This data may or may not add fuel to the fire in the Capitol's never-ending war over workers' compensation costs and benefits. Since the 2004 overhaul, labor unions and attorneys who specialize in employee injury cases have pressed for rolling back some of its provisions - saying they have denied adequate benefits to disabled workers. Governor Jerry Brown vetoed several bills last year that would have rolled back reform further, stating he would prefer a more comprehensive approach this year.
As with every year, there were approximately 20 (give or take) bills introduced on the issue. Many are repeat offenders – ideas that are recycled year after year. These bills will likely go through the process as normal, but it is expected that negotiations will be occurring behind the scenes and a more comprehensive bill will be introduced late in the session.