Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner on Tuesday called for insurers to cut workers' compensation pure premium rates by an additional 14.2 percent, saying California businesses still are not reaping sufficient benefit from reforms to the system.


The recommendation, which would affect policies beginning on or after July 1, applies to the base premium businesses pay to cover the costs of injured workers, not the adjustments insurers tack on to account for differences among industries and in utilization rates.


Poizner noted that as a result of reforms approved by the state legislature in 2003 and 2004, insurers these days are paying an "historic low" 37 cents in claims for every dollar collected in premiums.


This is Poizner's first workers comp recommendation since taking office in January. In a telephone press conference, the commissioner also announced several studies and audits aimed at reducing fraud and increasing the accuracy of the agency that provides his office with statistical data.


Like his predecessors, Poizner singled out the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau for particular criticism, saying its methodology has resulted in overly conservative estimates over the last 12 years. The bureau, for example, recently recommended just an 11.3 percent rate decrease. Poizner said he has ordered an audit to improve the bureau's data collection and forecast development.


The commissioner said he also has ordered increased auditing of insurers with a pattern of being overaggressive in denying claims. He is assembling a panel of law enforcement experts to recommend better ways to crack down on fraud by workers, businesses and insurers. Poizner also will host a summit aimed at increasing competition by encouraging more insurers to enter, or re-enter, the California market.

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