Controlling Workers’ Compensation Costs for School Districts

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by Chris Branvold, Consultant, Commercial Lines Department and Education Practice Group Member

Educational institutions comprise various work environments, including classrooms, school buses, and sports facilities. Therefore, protecting these diverse types of employees with proper safety procedures and workers’ compensation insurance represents a high priority for school districts and a large portion of their insurance costs.

When workers’ comp claims remain unresolved and incidents continue to occur, districts can face difficult decisions. Insurance carriers may raise premiums or even issue a notice of nonrenewal, and school administrators are left scrambling to find insurance that meets their needs while fitting into a tightly controlled budget.

The issue for many school districts is that they do not have the staffing to proactively manage and monitor progress on multifaceted workers’ compensation claims. Likewise, many brokers will tell school districts that they must contact their insurance carrier directly as they do not employ an in-house claims team.

At Henderson Brothers, we work as an advocate for the insured at every step – from selecting a coverage plan to helping close claims. Our team includes certified school risk managers, safety consultants, and a dedicated claims department; each member brings experience to the unique circumstances of schools and education organizations.

Below are examples of how we have helped school districts reduce injuries, brought employees back to work faster, and lowered high workers’ compensation premiums:

Preventing Incidents with Risk Control

An experience modification is an important factor that insurance carriers use to calculate premiums. This multiplier, also known as a “mod,” acts as a score for an organization’s safety performance. A higher mod indicates that a higher number of incidents and injuries (i.e., claims) have been reported, and a higher premium is required. Conversely, a lower mod represents fewer incidents. The mod considers both the number of claims and the cost of each claim.

At Henderson Brothers, our Risk Control experts assess and provide recommendations and safety training to prevent injuries, improving the organization’s mod over time. This attention can result in significant cost savings through lower premiums.

Resolving Workers’ Comp Claims Faster

Insurance adjusters always work with a large caseload. As the school district’s advocate, we aim to ensure that your claim is on the top of the pile. The claims department at Henderson Brothers will keep track of the employee’s medical appointments, rehabilitation, and recovery to ensure the claim is closed as quickly as possible – helping improve the district’s claim record and lower their mod.

Helping Employees Return to Work

The time an employee stays out of work after an injury dramatically affects the cost of a claim. Return-to-work programs help employees rejoin the workforce in an appropriate position for their condition, such as limited lifting or shorter shifts, as soon as possible after the injury. In addition to replacing some of the worker’s lost wages, return-to-work programs help reduce the cost of claims.

Establishing a formalized return to work program can be difficult due to the collaboration required by various employee groups and unions. However, the Henderson Brothers team has experience building consensus to ensure buy-in and program success.

In one school district, we convened union leaders, board members, and administrators to develop a transitional return to work process for each department that allowed injured workers to come back to work in some capacity at different roles throughout the school. As a result, in the five years since implementation, the district has experienced fewer claims, lower claim costs due to indemnity benefits, and a reduction in their experience mod.

Negotiating Claim Reserves

Many parts of a workers’ compensation claim include medical care, lost wages, disability benefits, and rehabilitation costs. Insurance carriers hold cash reserves to cover these claims, and they are calculated using data from claims they have paid in the past and the organization’s past claim costs.

Suppose these reserves are overestimated and higher than the actual cost of claims. In that case, it can lead to higher premiums for the school district because reserves are recorded as part of the insurance company’s loss history.

The Henderson Brothers’ in-house claims team can negotiate with carriers to help lower workers’ compensation claims reserves. We use the research and data we have collected over the years to recommend accurate reserves for different types of claims.

As school districts continue to work with us and resolve claims efficiently, the insurance carrier will be able to lower reserves as the claims lower in cost.

Working with the Right Broker

Choosing the right insurance broker can help school districts protect employees and save money. If your organization needs workers’ compensation assistance, talk to one of our education industry experts today. We help schools nationwide mitigate workplace risks, improve safety records, process claims, and find the best insurance products for their needs.

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Please note that the information contained in this posting is designed to provide general awareness in regard to the subject matter covered. It is not provided as legal, medical, or tax advice, nor is it intended to address all concerns in your workplace or for public health. No representation is made as to the sufficiency for your specific company’s needs. This post should be reviewed by your legal counsel or tax consultant before use.