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1:24:07 AM CDT
Thursday, July 24, 2014

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History

A Brief History of Workers’ Compensation in North Dakota:

In 1919, the 16th North Dakota Legislative Assembly created the Workmen’s Compensation Bureau. Its purpose was to provide “sure and certain relief regardless of questions of fault to the exclusion of every other remedy, proceeding, or compensation.” The intent of the law was to provide relief to workers injured while on the job. This relief would be in the form of compensation for lost earnings and payment of medical bills incurred. It was anticipated that the law would help employers by eliminating the risk of damaging lawsuits by injured employees.

The historic legislative session of 1919 produced three laws. In addition to establishing the Bank of North Dakota and authorizing construction of a State Mill and Elevator, it also allowed for the creation of the Workmen’s Compensation Bureau. These were all included in House Bill No. 56, which was introduced January 23, 1919. On February 24, the first vote for passage in the Senate was taken. The bill was then sent to the Appropriations Committee, where they generously provided $50,000 or as much thereof as would be needed to put into effect the provisions of the Act. This amount proved more than adequate as only $9,137.12 was used of this appropriation. On November 1, 1919, that amount was repaid. On February 26 the final vote for passage was taken, and on March 3, Governor Lynn J. Frazier signed the bill into law. The law had placed the Bureau in the Department of Agriculture and Labor. It also provided that the Commissioner of that department would serve as member and ex-officio Chairman. The Commissioner of Agriculture was J. N. Hagen. On April 1, Governor Frazier announced the appointment of S. S. McDonald and L. J. Wehe as Commissioners. The North Dakota Workmen’s Compensation Bureau was now ready to begin operations.

The First Annual Report of the Workmen’s Compensation Bureau for the Year Ending June 30, 1920, stated that the Bureau reported 723 accidents for the period July 1, 1919, to June 30, 1920. This resulted in compensation awards of $159,941.56 and medical, hospital, burial, and miscellaneous awards of $21,473.74. The leading causes of injury were machinery, falls, and falling objects (in that order) with the categories reporting the lowest number of injuries being poisonous substances, vehicles, and boiler and steam pressure apparatus. The Fund was reported to be in a “thoroughly sound and solvent condition.” It developed a total surplus of $91,891.85 within its first eight months of operation. Additionally, to protect against catastrophic hazard, reinsurance protection for the Fund became effective on November 10, 1920.

The following excerpts are taken from the First Annual Report as written by Emile E. Watson, Consulting Actuary:

When the topic of (premium) rates was discussed, the Report states “It is inevitable that the North Dakota employers should feel that their workmen’s compensation rates were too high and that the cost was heavy. This is inevitably the feeling where there is a change from the old employers’ liability system to the workmen’s compensation system. Under the old employers’ liability system the injured workmen received damages only when there was a fault and negligence on the part of the employers, and under this system in over 80 percent of the accidents, not one cent was received.”

It further states, “Under the workmen’s compensation, the entire question of fault and negligence is wholly abolished, not only as applied to the injured workmen, but also as applied to the employer, as well, and parenthetically, it must be positive relief and asset to the North Dakota employers to be relieved of this uncertain contingency of lawsuits from industrial accidents. So under the workmen’s compensation regime practically 100 percent of the injured workmen receive compensation and substantial compensation. There is not a merchant, doctor, butcher, grocer, clothier in the state of North Dakota who does not derive the greatest financial benefit from the North Dakota Workmen’s Compensation Law for the definite reason that if a North Dakota workmen is now injured he still has an income and is able to pay his bills.”

The Report also states, “Forty-two of our States have not adopted workmen’s compensation acts, and the North Dakota act shares the distinction of paying higher benefits than any of the other forty-one plans. In other words, the injured workmen (and if killed, their dependents) of the North Dakota employers, are receiving more liberal compensation than the workmen (and their dependents) of any employer of any other state of the Union.”

It further states, “I have two things for which to criticize the otherwise excellent administration of the North Dakota Fund. The first is the length of time it has required to get compensation payments started to claimants. The average time elapsing between the date of the receipt of the preliminary application of first notice of injury and the date of aware has been 72 days, and the number of claims pending as of May 1, 1920, on accidents occurring before March 1, 1920, was 95.”

“I fully appreciate the degree to which litigation against the Bureau completely tied its hands over a considerable period, making it impossible for the Bureau to pay compensation to claimants. Yet the Bureau has been entirely too technical in its claim procedure, creating the precise condition the Act was designed to get away from.”

“I believe, furthermore, that the Bureau has been equally over technical in dealing with the employers, thereby causing them unnecessary trouble and inconvenience. It is my last thought to counsel lax and unbusinesslike administration, but a basic spirit and purpose of the North Dakota Workmen’s Compensation Act was go get away from the old legalistic technicalities and procedures.”

“The attitude of the Bureau has greatly improved in this respect, however, which result I confidently predict will result in getting compensation to the claimants with much more promptness, with an equal safeguard to the Fund, and will eliminate that friction with the employers which the previous attitude produced.”

The Second Annual Report, for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1921, reported, “Due to the condition of the Workmen’s Compensation Fund, the Board found it possible on September 27, 1921, to declare a 15% Dividend, based upon the earned premium of the past year; such dividend to be paid to employers having insurance prior to July 1, 1921, and paid on the adjustment at the first expiration date following June 30, 1921; but not to employers whose accident experience has given them a penalty under the rules of this Bureau or to employers against whom a death claim was pending as of February 28, 1921. This means, to the employers as a whole, a great savings in insurance cost.”

“As of November 18, 1921, there has been refunded to employers a total of $27,751.12 as Dividends and $13,911.71 as Credit Merit Premiums. There are still four to five thousand employers, as this report goes to print, yet to receive the Dividend and the Bureau each day is able to compute and send Dividend Refunds to many employers.”

The Fourth Annual Report, for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1923, reported that the Act was amended. The amendments “became effective July 1, 1923, and contained provisions for insurance of the employer, at his option; for the insurance of employees while working outside of the State of North Dakota, at the option of the employer; and for a penalty for failure to pay premium within thirty days. In addition to these amendments, legislation was enacted providing for the reporting of public contracts to the Bureau and for the reporting of township officers by the county auditors and school district clerks by the county superintendents of schools.”

“During the twelve month period from July 1, 1922, to June 30, 1923, the Bureau has carried on an active campaign for the enforcement of the Workmen’s Compensation Act which has resulted in a considerable increase in the number of risks. On June 30, 1923, there were 8,548 risks in force. In addition to this, a special assistant attorney general has been assigned the Bureau for the purpose of prosecuting employers who refuse to comply with the Act. Evidence is accumulating steadily that the public is becoming better acquainted with the purposes of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, and as a whole, both employers and employees are now cooperating splendidly with the Bureau. There are, however, some of the political subdivisions of the State that have failed to comply with the Act; the chief offenders in this respect are school districts and townships.”

The Report stated that for the 1921 - 1922 period there were 1,192 claims filed and for the 1922 - 1923 period there were 1,654 claims filed.

The Eighth Annual Report, for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1927, reported that the Act was amended by the 20th Legislative Assembly in 1927. The amendment limited the total payments of death and permanent total disability cases to a maximum of $15,000 and fixing the table of specific benefits.

The Eleventh Annual Report, for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1930, reported concerns in relation to classifications and premium rates. The report states, “Even with the best of intentions and the highest type of expert assistance, it was not to be expected that no errors would be made. It was and is reasonable to expect, however, that, with the progress of time and the development of North Dakota experience, future adjustments would make the necessary and proper corrections.”

The Fund showed a surplus of $303,057.41. There were 5,773 claims filed during the year, resulting in 25 fatal accidents. This included compensation awards of $207,681.48 and medical, claims and pensions, death, permanent total, permanent partial, and miscellaneous awards of $329,513.15. The Eleventh Annual Report states, “There has been an astounding increase in the number of claims filed, and there has been an equally astounding increase in the ratio of fatal (death) cases to total accident. ”It further states that “employers, workmen, and Legislature should give serious consideration to an educational program for accident prevention.”

The report outlined nine recommendations to allow for amendments to strengthen the working of the Act.

The Twelfth Annual Report, for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1931, stated, “At this time we desire to make official certain statements that have gone to the newspapers during this year, because we feel that we assumed a rather serious responsibility when we failed to follow the advice of our consulting actuary by not raising the general level of premium rates on July 1, 1931, and we need the more active co-operation of courts, employers, employees, and the general public, in our effort to make effective the real purpose of the law, without unduly burdening those who contribute the funds to that end. Safety programs must be inaugurated.”

It further states, “We believed, however, that we were well enough informed with respect to our situation that we could weather the storm caused by the depression inroads, without an increase in the general level of rates. On the basis of the studies we made early in March of this year, we estimated that we would invade our reserves to the extent of about $11,000 per month if no such increases were made. Up to November 1, those figures have proved out quite accurately.Our average loss has been about $10,600 per month.”

“If, therefore, the accidents continue on the increase as they have, we shall reach the limit of endurance by July 1, 1932, at which time, an appreciable increase in the general level of rates will have to be made unless a very determined effort is made on the part of all our people to stem this tide of increasing accident costs. The law requires us to keep this fund safe and solvent. It is our intention to follow that requirement, no matter where it leads.”

For the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 1931, the surplus reported was $72,905.10. There were 5,882 claims filed. The four highest categories for cause of injury were objects being handled, hand tools, miscellaneous, and vehicles (in that order). Medical costs were $139,901.97 and costs for death and compensation were $424,288.78.

The Twenty-First Annual Report, for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1940, reported a surplus of $542,630.63. Of the 7,294 claims being reported, 19 were fatalities. Claims costs were $151,447.93 in medical costs and $297,196.04 in death and compensation. Safety began to play an important role to the organization as the 1939 Legislature (Chapter 314, Session Laws 1939) created the Safety Department. The Report states,“The safety work is in its infancy in North Dakota and it was not unusual to find that when the first technical inspection of the premises was made flagrant abuses were found.” When describing housekeeping hazards that has been encountered, the report states, “Good housekeeping is the best antidote for accidents.”

The Thirty-First Annual Report, for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1950, reported a surplus of $743,924.51. Of the 11,993 claims filed that year, the leading causes of injury were objects handled, hand tools, and falls. Of these claims, 25 were fatal. Medical costs were $309,547.22 and compensation and death costs were $580,143.50.

The Forty-First Annual Report, for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1960, reported a surplus of $561,891.45. Of the 13,720 claims filed that year, the leading causes of injury were objects handled, falls, miscellaneous, and stepping on or striking against objects (in that order). Medical costs were $637,595.30 and compensation and death costs were $1,271,529.52.

The Forty-Third Annual Report, for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1962, reported a surplus of $581,018.77. Of the 13,302 claims filed that year, the leading causes of injury were objects handled, falls, miscellaneous, and hand tools (in that order). Medical costs were $797,279.92 and compensation and death costs were $1,514,888.46.

The First Biennial Report, for the Biennium Ending June 30, 1964, reported a general surplus of $695,247.87. During the biennium, there were 15,696 claims filed during fiscal year 1963 and 15,384 in 1964. The top causes of injury were objects handled, falls, miscellaneous, and machinery (in that order). Medical costs paid were $2,277,220.68 and compensation and death costs totaled $3,572,686.02.

The Second Biennial Report, for the Biennium Ending June 30, 1966, reported a general surplus of –$639‚796.96. During the biennium, there were 16,822 claims filed during fiscal year 1966 and 16,822 during fiscal year 1965. The top causes of injury were objects handled, falls, miscellaneous, and machinery (in that order). Compensation and death costs totaled $3,572,686.02.

The Fourth Biennial Report, for the Biennium Ending June 30, 1970, reported a general surplus of –$518‚802.91. During the biennium, there were 15,662 claims filed during fiscal year 1970 and 14,492 during fiscal year 1969. The top causes of injury were objects handled, falls, and machinery (in that order). Medical costs paid were $3,326,390.22 and compensation and death costs totaled $4,071,615.68.

The Fifth Biennial Report, for the Biennium Ending June 30, 1972, reported a general surplus of $2,341,294.01. During the biennium, there were 17,373 claims filed during fiscal year 1972 and 15,891 during fiscal year 1971. The top causes of injury were objects handled, falls, miscellaneous, and machinery (in that order). Medical costs paid were $3,599,180 and compensation and death costs totaled $3,719,523.

The Ninth Biennial Report, for the Biennium Ending June 30, 1981, reported 23,827 claims processed during fiscal year 1981 and 22,020 during fiscal year 1982. The top causes of injury were objects handled, falls, miscellaneous, and machinery (in that order). Medical costs paid were $12,106,270 and compensation and death costs totaled $12,310,949.

The 1991 – 1993 Biennial Report reported 19,529 claims processed during fiscal year 1993 and 17,750 during fiscal year 1992. The Income Statement reports an unfunded liability of –$240‚139‚611 for fiscal year ending 1993 and an unfunded liability of –$224‚404‚082 for fiscal year 1992. This excerpt from the Report addresses the condition of the fund: “The Bureau’s largest obstacle for fund solvency has been inadequate premium rates to finance the spiraling cost of claims. The Bureau finally overcame that obstacle in 1993 when rates generated enough revenue to cover the estimated cost of claims for that year. The increase in the unfunded liability for 1993 is due to the liability for prior periods.”

The 1993 – 1995 Biennial Report reported 20,302 claims filed during fiscal year 1995. The Income Statement reports an unfunded liability of –$228‚184‚187 for fiscal year 1993 and an unfunded liability of –$153‚631‚700 for fiscal year 1995. The following is an excerpt from the Report: “There were 28 bills passed through the Legislature which significantly affected our Fund.” It further states, “The legislative reforms had an estimated reducing effect on rates ranging from 8 to 15% and cut the Bureau’s unfunded liability by over $50 million. As of the date of this publication, there was another effort to place an initiated measure on the ballot which would reverse virtually all of the 1995 reforms plus add many provisions with substantial costs that are difficult to precisely estimate as they have never been experienced before in our system. If the initiated measure should become law, policyholders can expect substantial future rate increases to finance its provisions as the legislature cannot change any portion of an initiated measure for seven years without a two-thirds majority of both house of the State Legislature.”

The 1995 – 1997 Biennial Report reported there were 20,448 claims filed during fiscal year 1997 and 20,428 during fiscal year 1996. The Balance Sheet reports an unfunded liability of –$72‚691‚869 for fiscal year 1996 and a fund surplus of $38,124,940 for fiscal year 1997. The top three causes of injury were strains by lifting, reaching, and jumping; slips and falls; and being caught in or between objects or machinery (in that order).

The following are excerpts from the Report:

“In 1993, the Workers Compensation Fund deficit was at an all-time high of $240 million. In 1995, the Bureau sponsored over 28 reform bills to overhaul the system. These changes dealt with fraud, dispute resolution, timely injury reporting, agency separation from the state’s central personnel system, retrospective rating (similar to self-insurance), laws limiting potential for abuse, designated medical providers, increased benefits to severely injured workers, and vocational rehabilitation laws allowing early, safe returns to work.”

“By the end of fiscal year 1997, the Fund deficit was completely eliminated, leaving a surplus of about $1 million. Rates were reduced for the next premium year by four percent. The Fund added an additional $29 million to the contingency reserve in August 1997 and employers received an additional retroactive rate decrease of 4.7 percent due to the phasing out of the deficit growth modifier, a surcharge built into rates in 1993 to help reduce the unfunded liability.”

In 1997, the 55th North Dakota Legislative Assembly created a Board of Directors. The Governor appointed ten members to the Board in January of 1998. The Board consists of six members representing employers of different sizes, three members representing employees, and one non-voting member representing the medical association. The role of the Board is to ensure continuity of leadership at NDWC and to ensure that NDWC operates efficiently and effectively. The Board has adopted the Carver Model of Board governance, which provides a clear structure for Board leadership and organizational accountability to the Board. This structure includes regular performance monitoring reports and an internal auditor who reports to the Board so the Board can ensure continued improvements are being made in all key areas of NDWC operations and services.

The 1997 – 1999 Biennial Report reported there were 20,683 claims filed during fiscal year 1998 and 20,034 during fiscal year 1999. The Balance Sheet reports a total fund surplus of $76,318,965 million for fiscal year 1998 and a total fund surplus of $91,174,331 for fiscal year 1999. The top three causes of injury were strains; falls or slips; and cuts, punctures, or scrapes (in that order).

The following is an excerpt from this Report:

“While NDWC has achieved tremendous improvements, it also recognizes the need to ensure that every aspect of its operation meets or exceeds private industry standards. Recognizing that no competition exists in the North Dakota workers’ compensation market that would force NDWC to “operate efficiently or cease to exist,” NDWC and its Board believe they have a special obligation to maintain the highest standards of performance and efficiency.”

The 1999 – 2001 Biennial Report reported there were 20,045 claims filed during fiscal year 2000 and 20,320 during fiscal year 2001. The Balance Sheet reports a total fund surplus of $376,242,034 million for fiscal year 2000 and a total fund surplus of $378,632,017 for fiscal year 2001. The top four causes of injury were strain or injury by; falls or slips; and cuts, punctures, or scrapes; and miscellaneous causes.

Timeline of Events:

1919

  • The first meeting of the newly created North Dakota Workmen’s Compensation Bureau was held in the office of John N. Hagen, Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor (April 5, 1919, at 3:30 p.m.)
  • This included one executive office member, the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners.
  • First office was located at the Northwest Hotel in Bismarck (1919-1921).
  • Even though the Bismarck Tribune announced on July 3 that all business would be suspended on July 4, a 17-year-old creamery worker named Charles Stearns cut his hand while opening cream cans for his employer on July 4. He didn’t file his claim until July 24, and on August 14, the Bureau accepted the claim. This was claim No. 1 filed with the newly-established North Dakota Workmen's Compensation Bureau.
  • Statistics: Maximum weekly compensation payment: $20; total medical payments made by the organization in it’s first year: $21,473.74; annual premiums collected: $539,218.16; claim acceptance took an average of 72 days from the date the organization was notified of the injury until the claim was accepted.
1920

  • The Bureau secured catastrophic re-insurance protection (became effective November 10, 1920).
  • The first field auditors were hired, with their primary purpose to find employers who did not have coverage.
1921

  • The Bureau moved to the second floor of the Guaranty Bank Building in January (1921-1924).
1924

  • The Bureau moved to the Elting Building (1924-1926).
1926

  • The Bureau rented the second floor of the Bank of North Dakota building (1926-1934).
1934

  • The Bureau sold its light fixtures and linoleum to the Bank of North Dakota for $600 and moved its 19 employees and all its records and possessions to the ninth floor of the new Capitol building. It needed the entire ninth floor because, from1919 to 1934, the Claims Department had accumulated claim records for 53,000 claimants; the Underwriting Department has risk folders for 9,000 employers; there were 15 years of carefully documented statistical records; and the cashier’s books showed that the Bureau has accumulated $2,525,793.88 in assets. It turns out the Bureau would remain located in the Capitol for 41 years (June).
1935

  • First full-time attorney general was hired. The majority of the Legal Department’s workload was applied to the prosecution of uninsured employers.
1939

  • The 26th North Dakota Legislative Assembly created the Safety Department. On October 17, Herbert J. Franek, Safety Inspector, began the organization of the department.
1941

  • During fiscal year 1941, a Basic Safety Manual was prepared with the assistance of various government, state, labor and employers’ organizations. The manual was distributed generously to the various industries.
1943

  • The workers’ compensation law was amended to provide for a weekly payment of $1 for each dependent child, up to five children.
1953

  • The 33rd North Dakota Legislative Assemble created the Boiler Inspection Department. One person inspected approximately 700 high-pressure and public building boilers in the state.
1973

  • The scope of inspections conducted by the Boiler Inspection Department was expanded to include inspection of low pressure and hot water boilers in addition to high pressure and public building boilers in the state.
1975

  • The Bureau relocated to The Russel Building, north of Bismarck on Highway 83 (1975-1993).
1985

  • Work began on the computer project (November), with an expected completion date no later than March 1987. The 49th North Dakota Legislative Assembly approved an expenditure of funds for a data processing and accounting systems modernization project.
1987

  • The 50th North Dakota Legislative Assembly changed the agency’s name to North Dakota Workers Compensation Bureau (later commonly referred to as NDWC).
1989

  • During the 1987-1989 biennium, NDWC implemented cost-saving programs such as medical bill auditing and medical monitoring/case review. Also, the efforts of the Safety Department were shifted from “policing” to training and prevention with an emphasis on creating and improving employer safety programs to reduce the number of accident. Employers were also encouraged, in cooperation with the medical community, to develop and implement return-to-work incentives and opportunities.
  • The 51st North Dakota Legislative Assembly created the Advisory Council to assist in formulating policies and resolving problems.
1991

  • The 52nd North Dakota Legislative Assembly passed a law requiring employers to reimburse the Bureau up to $250 in medical costs for each claim.
  • In a tragedy that touched the state, seven firefighters were injured. The Sherwood oil tanker fire united individuals in a unique way (September 15).
  • The first annual Workers’ Compensation Conference was held providing employers, attorneys, medical providers, and others interested in the workers’ compensation system an opportunity to learn more about the system (November).
1992

  • The Bureau’s first medical fee schedule became effective (January). During the first 18 months in operation, the fee generated over $6 million in savings to NDWC.
  • The Safety & Fraud HotLine was established (October).
1993

  • The 53rd North Dakota Legislative Assembly approved an Imaging Project to reduce the amount of paper handled by the NDWC and to streamline operations.
  • NDWC hosted the American Association of State Compensation Insurance Funds (AASCIF) national convention (May).
  • NDWC relocated to the historic Wachter Warehouse building at 500 East Front Avenue, Bismarck (1993 – 2003). Slightly over 100 employees assisted with the move (June).
  • A Health Care Advisory Board was formed to advise NDWC on policies affecting health care and quality control (members comprised of physicians of various specialties, chiropractors, physical therapists, and hospital executives were appointed in October).
  • An Advisory Council was formed, comprised of 14 employer and employee representatives, to share its insights with NDWC in an effort to improve operations (October).
  • Established a Collections Unit in Policyholder Services to recover delinquent premium and $250 medical assessment fees.
1994

  • The Risk Management Program was implemented with 67 employers participating (January).
  • Governor Ed Schafer declared April 28 as Workers’ Memorial Day in North Dakota in an effort to emphasize the need for safety in the workplace (April).
  • The Fraud Unit (later to become the Special Investigations Unit) was formed. The organization at this time had around 140 employees (August).
  • Internal security plan was developed for building security and for the personal safety of the organization’s employees (August).
1995

  • The 54th North Dakota Legislative Assembly passed a comprehensive reform package for the workers’ compensation system in North Dakota comprised of 28 bills (January, with the bills enacted in July).
  • Imaging system was implemented – paper claim files were no longer being created (June).
  • First workers’ compensation fraud conviction in the state of North Dakota (June).
  • Average employer premium decreased 8.5% (July).
  • Established a toll-free (800) telephone number to assist customers (October).
  • Reorganized the Customer Service Unit to provide one-stop shop for customers who call the organization (December).
  • The Workers’ Adviser Program (later to become the Office of Independent Review in July 1999) was formed (December).
  • The Quality Assurance and Special Programs Department was started (December). The Quality Assurance branch later became Constituency Services.
  • A Premium Audit Program was developed and implemented to protect NDWC by collecting sufficient premiums, to ensure proper employee classifications, and to provide equity among employers in similarly situated businesses.
1996

  • NDWC became exempt from Central Personnel (January). A new “pay for performance” based pay system was implemented to help keep and attract high-quality employees.
  • Implemented telephonic reporting of injuries to provide services 24/7 (January).
  • Policyholder Services introduced the Retrospective Rating Program (January).
  • A Fraud Amnesty Period was offered (January).
  • Quality Assurance started conducting customer service satisfaction surveys for injured workers and employers in an effort to monitor and improve services (July).
  • Average employer premium rate decreased 3% (July).
  • Imaged the one-millionth document as part of the Imaging System (October).
  • Workers’ Compensation Liaison Program started with major medical facilities in the state (October).
  • Implemented the Notice of Decision procedure to speed up claims processing (November).
  • Electronic data interchange (EDI) became operation allowing medical providers to transfer billing information electronically into NDWC’s system.
1997

  • The Goals and Achievement Program was implemented – the first of its kind in North Dakota State Government (January).
  • The 55th North Dakota Legislative Assembly passed into law a bill to establish a Board of Directors to oversee NDWC. Under this bill, NDWC’s executive director is hired by and reports directly to the Board. The law also required NDWC to undergo an independent performance audit every two years by a recognized workers’ compensation industry expert. The results will then be presented to the State auditor and the Legislature.
  • The Legislative Assembly also passed a bill creating the Guardian Scholarship Program to provide educational assistance to the spouses and dependent children of those workers who lost their lives in work-related accident.
  • Installation of MIRA - new claims reserving advisory system (April).
  • Fund is solvent for the first time in as many as two decades with a $1 million surplus and a $62 million contingency reserve (June).
  • Average employer premium rates decreased 8.5% (July).
  • Total number of full-time employees: 165 (July).
  • First evaluation of Retrospective Rating Program - PHS refunded $1,367,077 to program participants (July).
  • NDWC was officially managed by the Board of Directors (September).
1998

  • The Governor appointed the members of the Board of Directors (January).
  • The two-millionth document was imaged as part of the Imaging System (March).
  • The first independent performance audit was performed (March – May).
1999

  • A new business application was implemented for the Claims Department, CMS.
  • The first safety grants were awarded through the Safety Partnership Initiative. This partners WSI and high-hazard industries in an effort to provide specialized injury prevention services to those industries through the use of grant money (September).
  • The Loss Prevention Education Unit was established to provide safety education and training to North Dakota employers (October).
  • Policyholder Services implemented a new computer system (PICS) to interact with and respond to customer needs more effectively (October).
  • NDWC secured reinsurance coverage to protect against catastrophic losses. Running concurrent with this coverage is the “other state’s” policy, which provides additional protection for North Dakota employers temporarily sending employees outside North Dakota (December).
2000

  • The Customer Service Committee was established (January).
  • Our Customer Service Unit was restructured to provide a highly-trained, centralized unit to meet a wider variety of customers’ needs (February).
  • The Board of Directors established the Internal Audit Department to plan, direct, and complete internal audits and compliance reviews on NDWC programs and services (February).
  • The Small Account Safety Incentive Program (SASIP) was introduced. This safety discount program for small employers offered incentives to reward employers who create safer workplaces (April).
  • Web site was launched (May).
  • Stop Fraud Campaign was launched (May).
  • Through the Dividend Program, $12 million in safety dividends were issued to policyholders in conjunction with the 2000–2001 policy year.
  • New pharmacy and durable medical equipment fee schedules were developed.
2001

  • NDWC announced plans to build a new facility (February).
  • Online Claim Filing was implemented (April).
  • NDWC unveiled its newly established logo and tagline (May).
  • Launched a Safety Campaign in conjunction with Workers’ Memorial Day to help promote safety programs and to encourage safe work practices (April).
  • The second Fraud Amnesty Period was offered (June).
  • Seatbelt Use Required Campaign was launched (November).
2002

  • The Preferred Worker Program was implemented (February).
  • NDWC teamed with the Attorney General’s Office and the Secretary of State’s Office to form the Contractor’s Compliance Task Force to make sure contractors are operating with the proper licenses and workers’ compensation coverage (May).
  • Online Payroll Reporting became operational (May).
2003

  • A study conducted by the Oregon Department of Consumer & Business Services reported that North Dakota had the lowest workers’ compensation premium rates in the nation during 2002 (January).
  • Governor John Hoeven signed HB1065 into law, changing the organization’s name to Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI) (March).
  • Injured workers are provided the option to receive their compensation payments every 14 days rather than every 28 days (April).
  • Direct deposit of compensation payments is offered to injured workers (April).
  • The 6 millionth document has been entered into electronic storage (April).
  • WSI moved into the Century Center office complex (May).
  • WSI teamed with the Attorney General’s Office, the Secretary of State’s Office, and Job Service North Dakota to form the Construction Compliance Task Force to make sure contractors are operating with the proper licenses, workers’ compensation insurance, and unemployment insurance for their workers (June).
  • WSI opened a service center in Fargo to expand customer service in the eastern part of the state (July).
  • An Open House, ribbon cutting, and dedication ceremony were held at Century Center (September).
  • A new online service, Claim Lookup, was implemented, allowing medical providers easy access to claim verification information (October).
  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR) was implemented, drastically reducing the number of medical bills being manually entered into our computer system - instead, a computer reads the information into the system (December).
  • A new online service, Online Registration, was introduced allowing a convenient way for users to register for upcoming WSI training events and meetings (December).
2004

  • A new online service, Employer Search, was introduced which allows employers to perform a search to find out whether an associated employer has an open policy with WSI.
  • The first-ever Stakeholder’s summit was held to discuss premium rates for 2004-2005 and the timeline for public comment (March).
  • The 1 millionth letter was sent using our automated mail system. This system was implemented in 1995, with letters being sent to injured workers, employers, attorneys, and medical providers (May).
  • The 7 millionth document was entered into electronic storage (May).
  • "Superior Starts With Me", WSI’s first-ever employee summit geared towards organizational improvement and superior results, was held (August).
  • A Stakeholders’ Summit was held where WSI presented the legislative agenda for the 2005 Legislative Session in addition to an overview of the fund’s status (September).
  • All States Coverage is introduced, providing employers the opportunity to purchase a workers’compensation policy to cover their employees who work temporarily outside the state (September).
  • WSI held its first ever Healthcare Summit to gather together representatives from the medical community to discuss a wide range of topics impacting workers’ compensation (October).
  • WSI contracted with US Script, a pharmacy benefit management (PBP) company allowing for pharmacy charges for injured workers to be processed on-line in real time at the point of sale taking place at the pharmacy (October).
  • WSI Board adopts new reserve fund strategy (adopted a 5 percent discount in calculating the reserve fund) and the Board also made a recommendation that $250 million be held for unexpected developments (November).
2005

  • WSI, along with Job Service North Dakota, was awarded the Energy Star award by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for superior energy efficiency at Century Center. Both facilities became the first State office buildings in North Dakota to receive the award (February).
  • The conclusion of the 59th North Dakota Legislative Assembly brought forth bills which will, among other things, provide additional benefits for injured workers, broaden and expand existing safety programs for employers, and streamline communications with medical providers (April).
  • A new single–page form, the First Report of Injury (FROI), was introduced for claim filing, (April) with real-time claim number assignment being introduced later in the year in August.
  • The 8 millionth document was entered into electronic storage (April).
  • WSI Board commits over $90 million in premium dividend credits, safety grants, and student loans to North Dakota and its workforce (June).
  • A new early claim reporting incentive was introduced to employers whereby they would not have to pay the first $250 of medical expenses for each claim that is filed (namely the $250 medical assessment) if they report the claim to WSI by midnight of the next WSI business day following the date of injury or incident. The new Online Incident Report was also introduced, further assisting employers in reporting work incidents to WSI where medical attention was required (July).
  • Changes to the safety incentive programs were announced whereby the Small Account Safety Incentive Program and the Risk Management Program are being phased out and replaced with the Risk Management Program Plus (RMP+) (July).
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