‘No’ on Initiative 1082

Changing state’s workers comp system would hurt employers, reduce benefits

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Deciding on Initiative 1082 requires learning about numerous nuances of a complex industry. Compounding that difficulty for voters as they review their Nov. 2 ballots (which will be mailed today) is the fact that there are strong arguments both for and against the measure.

I-1082 would allow employers to purchase industrial insurance from private companies. This would change the state’s workers compensation system, which embraces 171,000 employers and 2.5 million workers. Supporters say competition would be good for the system, but it helps to know who some of the supporters are. I-1082 was written by insurance companies and the Building Industry Association of Washington. This led SeattlePI.com columnist Joel Connelly to describe the measure as “a financial cash cow for insurance companies (and the BIAW) … and sour milk for the state’s work force.” We agree and recommend a “No” vote.

I-1082 is also sour milk for employers, who would face an estimated $315 million increase in costs. The consumer coalition Americans for Insurance Reform said I-1082 would “result in greater costs for employers, smaller benefits for injured workers and increased burdens on the state.”

Often we have supported privatizing government programs. We did so in endorsing two initiatives (1100 and 1105) that would get the state out of the liquor business. And some day there might come a time to support a similar change in the workers comp system. But three alarms have triggered our opposition: bad timing (during the economic crisis), increased costs to employers (who create jobs) and deep concern over tinkering with benefits for injured workers.

I-1082, which would dangerously weaken state oversight over the insurance industry, seeks to repair a system that is not broken. Our state’s workers comp system is run more efficiently than private systems in other states.

Finally, it also helps to know who some opponents are. State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and state Auditor Brian Sonntag are two of the most trusted, independent and learned elected officials in Olympia. They know I-1082 is a slick maneuver by the insurance industry that would increase costs for employers and put workers’ benefits at risk.

Vote “No” on Initiative 1082.

To read other Columbian endorsement editorials, visit http://columbian.com/news/opinion/.