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July 21, 2003 1:25 PM
Workers’ Compensation News - July 21, 2003 Volume 1 Issue 19

Recession Affects Workers' Compensation Trends - Benefits Grew Faster Than
Calif. workers compensation fund runs low on cash
Last week, on a 10 - 8 vote, with one member not voting, the Senate Judiciary Committee barely reported out of the Committee S. 1125, which would replace the tort system for asbestos claims with a federal trust fund bureaucracy. Judiciary Committee Democrats, except for Senator Feinstein (D-CA), voted against the bill. Except for Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who did not vote, all Committee Republicans voted in favor of the bill. During the 10-hour markup, several amendments were accepted that slightly increased the compensation values for lung-cancer and mesothelioma victims. In addition, an amendment by Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) that would sunset the legislation if at least 95 percent of valid claims are not timely paid was approved. Because the Fund would be under-funded from the beginning and likely run out of money before all claims are settled, the Biden amendment reduces the certainty to the defendants and insurers, who would be required to contribute to the Fund, that the Fund will permanently end asbestos-related tort litigation. All but one of the amendments supported jointly by the AFL-CIO and ATLA were rejected by the Committee on a party-line vote, with all Republicans opposed and all Democrats in favor, including amendments to exclude the pending cases, bankruptcies and trusts and to exclude workers covered by FELA and the Jones Act. As a result, the AFL-CIO and ATLA are united in opposition to passage of this bill on the floor of the Senate. Remarkably, the American Insurance Association (AIA) has announced its opposition to the bill because of the increased cost to insurers and reduced certainty, as well as the fact that the insurance industry wrongly believes the Fund would be too generous to victims, particularly those with asbestos-related lung cancer. 

Fitch Says WC Rates Still Inadequate July 16, 2003 Last year marked a reversal of a six-year trend of deteriorating results for the workers' compensation insurance sector as the market posted a significant improvement in underwriting performance, but overall results are still unsatisfactory, according to a Fitch Ratings report.http://www.fitchratings.com/

Fitch Lowers Liberty Mutual's IFS Rating to 'A-'; Outlook Negative http://www.businesswire.com/cgi-bin/cb_headline.cgi?&story_file=bw.070903/231905626&directory=/google&header_file=header.htm&footer_file=

Fitch Ratings Assigns 'BBB+' to Harleysville Group Senior Notes

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