Now, one of the things that opponents of this new bill have been tossing around is that Illinois is a very competitive state for Workers Compensation insurance. And it is. On paper. In practice, not always so much.
Oh yeah, insurance companies have pretty much a free hand in pricing Workers Comp insurance in Illinois, and there are hundreds of insurers licensed to write Workers Comp insurance in the Land of Lincoln. Over three hundred different insurers, I understand.
Here's the gag, as my son likes to say: these insurers don't all compete for the same accounts, and many Illinois businesses can't, as a practical matter, get access to all these hundreds of insurers.
For the most part, a business has to go through a licensed insurance agent or broker. And any given agency might have contracts with only a handful of different insurance companies who write Workers Comp. But said agents all too often give the impression they can (and do) blanket the market in their search for coverage for a particular insured employer. Such impressions are often exaggerations, at best.
And if an employer is small, or new, or located somewhere away from major metropolitan areas, it can be difficult to get more than one or two insurers interested in proposing coverage in the "voluntary market". Of course, that still leaves the Assigned Risk Plan, a source of insurance that would be familiar in management style to Soviet-era bureaucrats. With pricing to match.
Insurance companies tend to compete for the sub-set of accounts that are deemed particularly attractive because of size, type of business, loss history, and sometimes, how well connected a particular agency may be with an insurer's underwriters.
But for many other businesses, the same deregulated rules that allow insurers to compete for desirable accounts on price allows insurers to sock it to employers who aren't on this year's list of desirable accounts.
And it also opens the door for some agents and insurers to low ball initial proposed Workers Comp pricing, only to hit the employer with a Shock Audit from Hell after the policy ends. When that happens, deregulation ain't so much fun.