A cheap pain in the neck

North Dakota State Roundup

Published September 1, 2005  | September 2005 issue

Though employers rarely like it when their costs go up, the recent hike in worker's compensation insurance in North Dakota was not a lot to grumble about.

For starters, the overall increase in premiums paid by employers was
2 percent for the coming year, which is mostly the result of increased medical and prescription costs for valid comp claims. But thanks to strong investment results by the worker's comp reserve fund (which now stands at about $1 billion), that cost increase is being partially offset by a dividend equal to 40 percent of an employer's premium. State employers still have the lowest premiums in the country, and workers also rank in the top half of states for benefits paid.

Still, should investment results decline, there are some trends worth watching. According to the state Workforce Safety and Insurance agency, average cost for valid wage loss claims rose some 33 percent from 1999 to 2003, to $40,000. Medical costs related to injured workers have risen steadily, eating up 50 percent of all benefits paid. Costs for prescription drugs have doubled during this time to more than $5 million.

Ronald A. Wirtz