Washington State Workers' Compensation Insurance Initiative Rejected


Washington State voters decisively rejected Initiative 1082 (I-1082) in the November 2, 2010 election by a margin of 18 percentage points. The initiative, which received 59 % "No" votes and 41% "Yes" votes, would have privatized the State's workers' compensation insurance, which has been a public system since 1911. As of November 4, 2010, the ballots counted showed that only one of Washington State's 39 counties, Chelan County, supported the initiative.

Washington is one of four states (the others being North Dakota, Ohio, and Wyoming) that require state workers' compensation insurance. Large employers in the State, who have the resources, are able to self-–insure, and many do.

An Expensive Campaign

Businesses, individuals, and interests groups combined spent more than ten million dollars on the initiative. Television and print ads about the initiative filled the airwaves in the weeks and months leading up to the election. I-1082 proponents argued that private competition for workers' compensation insurance would reduce costs for employers and employees allowing businesses to hire more workers. Business groups such as the Building Industry Association of Washington have wanted to change the state's system for years.

In the end, Washington voters were not willing to change the state's public system and allow insurance companies to manage workers' compensation claims. Supporters of I-1082 vowed to continue to work for reform of the state's workers' compensation insurance system despite the election outcome.

The Voter's Verdict Was Clear

Now that the election is over, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries ("L&I") is expected to release their preliminary industrial insurance rates for 2011. Normally businesses are provided notice of rate changes during the summer months for the following year. It is expected that rates will go up signficantly for 2011 to cover the higher claim costs that L&I has incurred in recent years.