Gov. Joe Manchin

By GOV. JOE MANCHIN

CHARLESTON -- The news last week that another $55 million in workers' compensation rate reductions has been approved by the West Virginia Insurance Commission –- bringing the total amount of money put back into our economy this year as a result of our workers' comp reforms to an impressive $130 million -- should be a call to action.

That is why I have issued a challenge to every business in West Virginia that is benefiting by the continued reduction in our workers' compensation premiums to reinvest that savings in West Virginia. Our state has made good on our "Open for Business" promise and now I am urging the businesses that have been positively impacted to use this savings to either expand their businesses; create more good-paying jobs; or, most importantly, provide health care benefits to their workers.

Making our West Virginia workers' compensation system nationally competitive is something that many observers believed could never be accomplished. However, during the first month of my administration in Jan. 2005, I joined with business, labor, and especially the members of our legislature, to support the passage of the historic legislation that began this monumental effort –- effectively eliminating an obstacle that had hampered our economic development efforts for far too long.

As a result, this week the West Virginia Insurance Commission announced its approval of an overall 10 percent decrease in workers' compensation loss costs, which is the portion of the workers' comp rate for prospective indemnity and medical benefits. The loss cost rate reductions for BrickStreet Insurance, which are a result of West Virginia now utilizing the nationally recognized standards of classification established by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), will put $55 million back into the economy of our state.

This announcement is great news for West Virginia's economic climate. As stated earlier, with this new reduction, and because of the work done by our legislature to change our workers' comp system once and for all, West Virginia's business community in general is now paying $130 million less a year in workers' comp premiums.

In addition, it is also important to note that we achieved these cost reductions without jeopardizing the level of service to our injured workers. Today, we are truly seeing a balance that is benefiting both companies and our working people.

For example, when we started the process of reforming our state's workers' compensation system, it was taking an average of two months for a worker to receive the initial workers' compensation wage replacement benefit after a lost-time injury. This delay was creating a significant financial hardship for our workers and their families, even jeopardizing their credit rating. Today, injured workers are not missing a paycheck as the wait for a wage replacement benefit after an injury is now less than 15 days -- allowing their families to continue to live the lives that they have established.

We've kept our promise that we would Open West Virginia for Business, and now the people of the Mountain State expect to see a return on that investment. From the very beginning, we've had a solid coalition of business and labor working together like never before to support our efforts. As the results indicate, this is a partnership –- with our legislature -– that is working very well for West Virginia.

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