New York, NY – U.S. workers compensation insurers were able to underwrite profitably between 2019 and 2022 even as significant changes occurred in the nation’s workforce due to the pandemic, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I).
“The line’s underwriting profitability for private carriers represented by the combined ratio remains strong,” stated the just-released Triple-I Issues Brief, Workers Compensation: State of the Risk, citing data dating back nearly a decade. “Combined ratio represents claims and expenses paid divided by premiums collected. A combined ratio below 100 represents an underwriting profit and one above 100 represents a loss.”
Workers compensation insurance pays for the medical care and physical rehabilitation of injured workers and helps to replace lost wages while they are unable to work. State laws govern the amount of the benefits paid and other compensation provisions. In addition, while private insurers account for much of the nation’s workers compensation insurance market share, a few states, like New York and California, have governmental agencies which compete with them.
Since 2014, workers compensation insurers cumulatively saw a net combined ratio of below 100 and, since 2017, that figure has consistently stayed below 90, with a 2022 net combined ratio of 87.4 for workers compensation insurers (when including state funds, in comparison to 84.0 for private carriers only). U.S. auto, home, and business insurers, across all insurance lines, had a net combined ratio last year of 102.4, according to Triple-I’s Issues Brief.
“Commercial lines achieved lower net combined ratios than personal lines in both 2021 and 2022, and we forecast that to continue through at least 2025,” said Dale Porfilio, FCAS, MAAA, chief insurance officer, Triple-I. “Workers comp had the lowest combined ratio among major product lines in 2021 and 2022, resulting from many years of deliberate efforts by insurance carriers and their policyholders to improve workplace safety.”
Workers compensation has benefited from a generally strong economy in recent years, most notably due to the growth in payrolls, the Issues Brief states. Private employment surpassed its pre-pandemic level in 2022 and employment growth remains faster than pre-pandemic norms, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Improved workplace safety, coupled with more employers allowing remote work arrangements, have combined to drive down the number of workers compensation insurance claims filed annually since 2021, Triple-I found. Moreover, many states have medical fee schedules, reducing medical inflation as insurers and medical providers set fixed prices for the services and products needed by injured workers.
Read the issues brief: Triple-I Issues Brief: Workers Compensation: State of the Risk (PDF)