In North Dakota, worker’s compensation insurance is a monopoly. If you own a business you are required to purchase worker’s compensation coverage for your employees, and the only place you can get it is the state-run Workforce Safety & Insurance.
Despite this – or because of it, depending on your point of view – North Dakota has some very low rates for worker’s compensation insurance compared to other states. But state Rep. Marvin Nelson, a Democrat from Rolla who ran unsuccessfully for governor last year, wants to pass a ballot measure expanding what worker’s comp insurance covers in our state and some are saying that will drive up those rates.
I had Nelson on my radio show today (full audio below), and he told me the ballot measure would do these three things if passed:
- Move regulation of WSI to the Insurance Commissioner’s Office
- Add coverage for job-related mental conditions (think PTSD for first responders)
- Expand coverage for volunteer workers, such as volunteer firefighters, who aren’t covered for lost wages now
The rebuttal to these proposals when they’ve been brought up previously in the Legislature is, as I mentioned before, that they will drive up premiums. In fact on twitter state Rep. Roscoe Streyle (R-Minot), responding to the news that Nelson was discussing this issue on my show, called the measure the “dumbest proposal ever”:
50% premium dividend again, some of best benefits and lowest rates in nation, rate reduction again & great reserves. Dumbest proposal ever.
— Roscoe Streyle (@HouseOfRoscoe) September 11, 2017
“Well it’s not,” Nelson said when I read him that tweet. “This is not an insurmountable problem in other states,” he added.
Andy Peterson, head of the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, agreed with Streyle’s characterization of the measure and added that adding coverage for mental issues could be problematic:
Roscoe is right. And mental injuries are like measuring jello
— andy peterson (@andyndchamber) September 11, 2017
Nelson accused the GNDC of “opening their members up to liability” by opposing this expanded coverage.
“If there is an injury on the job the employer is liable,” he said in the interview. “They can be covered under worker’s comp or they can be sued.”
I asked him why North Dakota shouldn’t just privatize worker’s compensation insurance, handling it something like auto insurance where the state mandates coverage but then citizens choose where they want to buy it. Nelson claims that situation would “double or triple” insurance premiums.
Here’s the full interview: