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Is the WCIRB violating open-access agreements?

That’s the question posed in a report by the Workers’ Comp Executive, a journal that covers important developments in the California workers’ comp industry.

The Workers’ Comp Executive has filed a flash report charging that the California Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau (WCIRB) is violating an open access agreement signed with the California Department of Insurance.

The WCIRB is important to the system, since it collects statistics and files reports with California’s Insurance Commissioner. But the WCIRB itself is not a public entity.

WCIRB reports are often cited by the Legislature. And they are-at least in theory-the data on which California’s Insurance Commissioner relies in determining an advisory “pure premium rate”.

The flash report by wcexec.com notes that while John Garamendi served as California Insurance Commissioner, the WCIRB signed an open-meetings agreement. That agreement provided for public access to written materials if those were being provided to certain WCIRB governing or committee members.

The Workers’ Comp Executive has charged that the WCIRB has refused to provide its reporters with materials that were being considered at some of its public meetings. Efforts to obtain the materials(efforts made by its ace reprorter, wcexec.com reporter Brad Cain) from the WCIRB information officer have apparently been rebuffed on at least some occasions.

Why does this matter?

The wcexec.com piece states the policy argument well:
“As a result, the public, the industry, the Legislature, and regulatory and executive branches of government are less informed and do not get a chance to analyze the data or methodology, to comment, or to clearly understand how the end result was derived. We can report that something happened, but not why or what data were used to reach the conclusions. Thus others are prevented from testing the data.”

According to the Workers’ Comp Executive, the WCIRB is avoiding transparency by delegating many items to subcommittees “not named in the MOU of Committee Openness Proposal”. This is said to create a system where important decisions are made behind closed doors, with public meetings resulting in a “sanitized version”.

Going further, the Workers’ Comp Executive charges that”
“By its actions, WCIRB management demonstrates the literal analogy of foxes guarding the henhouse. Its governing board is made up of insurance executives from companies it analyzes plus a couple of public members.”

And the Workers’Comp Executive charges that the WCIRB “has figured out how to keep the public members of its governing board in the dark as well”, explaining how the WCIRB excludes some directors from some of the subcommittee meetings.

At a time when workers comp insurance premiums paid by employers may start to bounce upward-in the middle of a terrible economy-there needs to be more transparency, not less.

Employer stakeholders have a right to know what is going on in the industry, and California’s Insurance Commissioner has a vital interest in insuring that the WCIRB is operating in a manner consistent with the public’s interest.

A new Insurance Commissioner will be elected in November. This is an issue that should be on the to-do list for the next Commish.

Here’s a link to the WC Exec piece, which itself has links to the WCIRB open access MOU and a story charging that public members Bruce Wick and Art Levine were excluded from meetings:
http://www.wcexec.com/WCIRB-Violates-Op … tment.aspx

Stay tuned.

Julius Young
www.boxerlaw.com

Category: Political developments

Julius Young

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