Commentary

Montana May Privatize Workersí Comp

A committee of lawmakers and insurance reps discussed privatizing Montana State Fund, the state-owned workers compensation insurance company: Some states, like Wyoming, have a state-run monopoly through which employers can only buy their insurance from the state. Others have a purely free-market system. Montana is a hybrid. The Montana State Fund is attached to state government but run much like a private business. Private companies also are allowed to sell worker’s compensation insurance or employers can be self-insured. But there’s a catch: State government must buy its worker’ s comp insurance from the State Fund and the State Fund must sell insurance to any business who asks for it, even businesses who would make bad clients that a private company might refuse to insure. The State Fund is a state agency, so it must follow the state’s open meetings law by conducting its board of directors meetings in public and handing over business documents to anyone who asks for them. Private companies don’t have that requirement. But the State Fund receives benefits private companies don’t, said Ann Nelson, executive vice president of governmental relations of the Employers Insurance Company of Nevada. Nelson also testified at Monday’s meeting. She works for a private company that used to be the state-run work comp agency in Nevada ââ?¬â?? a company that wants to do business in Montana. The State Fund doesn’t have to pay state and federal income taxes, she said, and it isn’t governed by the state Insurance Division, which oversees all other insurance companies in the state to make sure their rates are fair.

Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.