After failing to receive support from the Washington State legislature, the state's building industry is launching a ballot campaign to allow private worker’s compensation insurers to sell insurance in Washington state for the first time. If Initiative 1082 ("I–1082") collects the needed 241,153 valid voter signatures needed prior to July 2, the initiative will be on the November election ballot.
The Building Industry Association of Washington ("BIAW") is the principal backer of the initiative. If passed, the initiative would allow private insurers into Washington's system by 2012. Washington State does allow large employers, such as Boeing and Microsoft, to opt out of the public system and be self–insured. These companies are required handle workers' compensation claims consistent with the state system.
The BIAW believes that by allowing private insurers into the system, it would bring workers' compensation insurance rates down. The BIAW and other businesses have complained that the state's industrial insurance rates are too high. Rates in 2010 went up 7.6 percent. In early 2010, the BIAW and other groups lobbied the state's legislature to allow early settlement of medical claims to lower costs. The state's democratically controlled legislature rejected their proposals.
The Washington State Labor Council strongly opposes a privatized system, citing high executive salaries for insurers and advertising costs. They note that one of the largest insurers is AIG, who received billions of dollars in bailout money in the past year from U.S. taxpayers. Washington's workers compensation rates are also lower than more than half of the other fifty states. Both employers and workers contribute into the system.