Washington again has the nation’s highest workers’ compensation benefits costs.

While this year has seen a lot of disruptions, one thing remains stable: Washington’s workers’ compensation benefit costs are again the highest in the nation. The Washington Research Council reports:

According to a new report from the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), workers’ compensation benefit costs per covered worker in Washington were $769.52 in 2018. That is the highest in the country; Alaska came in second with $739.49. Benefit costs per covered worker in Washington had been declining since 2010, but in 2018 they increased slightly.

They’ve long been high. WRC senior analyst Emily Makings explains,

One component of NASI’s benefit cost estimate is the special funds that are used by some states to administer benefits to particular types of workers, for example. Washington’s supplemental pension fund is one of these special funds. It provides cost-of-living adjustments for worker’s compensation pensions and long-term time-loss benefits. These COLAs are tied to the state average wage, which increased by 5.5 percent in 2018. (The state average wage increased by 6.7 percent in 2019.)

NASI’s Sources, Methods, and State Summaries companion report notes,

The total amount of benefits paid through special funds increased from approximately $859 million in 2014 to almost $923 million in 2018. This increase was driven by Washington, which alone accounted for 59.1 percent of special benefits paid in 2018. In Washington, special fund benefits increased by 25.4 percent between 2014 and 2018.

From 2009 to 2018, Washington’s supplemental pension fund benefits increased by 40.4 percent while total benefits paid in Washington increased by 9.8 percent.

She concludes by pointing to the mixed outlook for rates next year.

The Department of Labor & Industries has proposed no increase in average workers’ compensation rates for 2021. However, the supplemental pension component of the average rate would increase by 12.0 percent under the proposal.

The Washington Roundtable includes workers’ compensation benefits costs as one of the metrics in Benchmarks for a Better Washington.