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Understanding Worker’s Compensation Boards: Alberta

Beneplan recently interviewed Shawn Friedenberger, Communications Advisor at the Worker’s Compensation Board in Alberta (WCB Alberta).

We’re interested to know how the WCB benefits interact with private health services plan benefits. For example, if someone gets injured on the job, then requires physiotherapy, and his employer’s plan has this benefit in place, who pays for the ‘first dollar’? WCB or the private plan?

WCB-Alberta compensates injured workers for lost income, health care and other costs related to their injury. In that capacity, WCB is first payer. Our responsibility to pay compensation for work-related injuries is not affected by a worker’s eligibility for benefits from any other sources.

Do larger employers get some sort of a ‘discount’ or become experience-rated for their premiums?

WCB-Alberta’s performance pricing programs work together to achieve two main goals: collecting the required premiums and distributing those premiums among employers to encourage prevention and disability management.

Individual industry and employer rates vary according to performance by the industry and by the employers themselves.

We have experience rating plans for small employers (those with less than $15,000 in premiums over a three-year period) and for large employers (those with $15,000 or more in premiums over a three-year period).

We review claim costs and insurable earnings for workers covered over a historical period to establish an employer’s experience record based on accident trends. During the experience period, claim costs and insurable earnings are evaluated to measure an employer’s experience compared to the rest of the employer’s industry.

Employers in our province pay workers’ compensation premiums that reflect their performance. Large employers with good performance qualify for up to 60% in discounts, while employers with poor performance can be subject to up to 240% in surcharges.

Here is a link to our WCB Alberta pricing guide for more detailed information: http://www.wcb.ab.ca/pdfs/employers/pricing_12.pdf

Are there any major trends regarding the level of claims that would affect benefits or premiums? 

The trends that most affect premiums are economic conditions like wage growth and health care inflation, and claim costs.

Claim volumes increased in 2011 for the first time since 2006, most likely due to increased activity in a stronger economy. We expect this trend to continue in 2012, though the impact of increased claims is mitigated by the employers’ long-term investments in safety and return-to-work programs.

In 2012, we anticipate claim costs — the direct costs of injuries — will be higher than in 2011 due to health care inflation, number of claims and higher wages.

Shawn can be reached at:

P- (780) 498-8685
E- shawn.friedenberger@wcb.ab.ca