L&I Announces New Efforts To Fight Fraud

                               Seattle, WA (CompNewsNetwork) - More than 4,800 Washington state businesses have been assisted by a new Employer Assistance Program offered by the state Department of Labor & Industries meant to help employers avoid becoming delinquent on their workers' compensation accounts.

The program and new tools to fight fraud were both announced at a press conference held Tuesday by Gov. Chris Gregoire and L&I Director Judy Schurke at L&I's Seattle office.

“Like families across Washington, businesses have seen incomes drop but still have bills to pay,” Gregoire said. “When it comes to workers' compensation, businesses face another challenge: they are undercut by an underground economy in which some businesses operate without legally required protections for their workers, and try to succeed on the backs of honest businesses that follow the law.”

To help businesses during this difficult economic period, L&I launched the Employer Assistance Program last year, which allows struggling businesses to extend payment of their workers' compensation premiums to better manage their cash flow if they find themselves in trouble. The number to call is 1-800-301-1826.

The program was created after L&I discovered that more than half of the 13,000 employers delinquent with their workers' comp accounts had previously held stellar records making their payments. Initially scheduled to last nine months, L&I announced they will continue the Employer Assistance Program due to the slow pace of the economic recovery.

“I want to tell employers if you have a good payment history with L&I but you're having trouble paying your workers' comp premiums now, we want you to contact us and let us help you,” Schurke said. “We can set up a payment plan and, in many cases, waive late penalties and interest.”

The press conference was also an opportunity to unveil new fraud-fighting tools, looking for employers that don't pay their premiums, medical providers that overbill and injured workers who file fraudulent claims. Cheating the system is not a victimless crime, but one that hurts workers, employers and taxpayers by driving up premium costs for everyone.

The new programs include Detecting Unregistered Employers, or DUE, which begins this fall. The program uses software to flag businesses that fail to register with the state and pay into the workers' compensation system.

"Our return on investment for fraud prevention has been eight to one – for every one dollar we spend we bring back eight dollars to the Workers' Compensation Trust Fund,” Schurke said. “Our goal is to make sure Washington is the least fraud-friendly state in the nation.”

Schurke also pointed out that tips to the L&I fraud hotline,1-888-811-5974, have grown. In the last 12 months, L&I received approximately 2,100 tips of potential fraud – almost twice the number of tips over the previous 12-month period.

“I want to encourage people who suspect fraud to let us know,” Schurke said. “We will investigate.”

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