Retro Worker’s Compensation Plans – A 3 Part Series in Alternative Risk

Retro or Retrospective Rating Plans for Workers Compensation are sophisticated rating programs designed where the final premium paid is based in some fashion on actual losses incurred during the policy period. These plans are complicated and many times used as an alternate funding mechanism.

Used and managed properly they can be a valuable tool in controlling the total cost for a workers compensation program. When used or managed improperly they can lead to costly overpayment of premium and expensive legal disputes and litigation between the insurance carrier and the employer.
There are several different types of workers compensation retrospective rating plans, but we will focus on the two most common: the Incurred Loss Retro and the Paid Loss Retro.


The Incurred Loss Retro Plan

The Incurred Loss Retro Plan is probably the most popular due to the lower upfront cost to setup and begin the plan and typically reserved for those with premiums in excess of $200,000+.


The Paid Loss Retro Plan

Paid Loss Retro’s are reserved for larger clients, they are more difficult to attract insurance carriers, much more costly to setup and usually reserved for those clients paying premiums in excess of $1,000,000.


How do claims effect a Workers Compensation Retrospective Rating Plan?

Claims, and just as importantly, claim handling by the carrier and insured, have an enormous effect on the retro and the ultimate premium an employer will pay. Remember, the whole idea around a retrospective rating plan is that the insured is responsible for paying the claim cost which is determined by an annual recalculation of the retro after the development of losses for the policy period in question. So this type of plan is all about the claims! It cannot be stressed enough that proper claim handling must occur.

Who should consider using a Retro Plan for Workers Compensation Funding?

Employers who are approached to use a retrospective rating plan should consider these typical factors. Retrospective rating plans work best for accounts;

  • With large workers compensation premium;
  • Who are stable and established;
  • Who are financially stable and sound;
  • Who have experienced some claim frequency;
  • Who have valid, consistent claim data available for analysis;
  • Who have had better than average claim experience;


What are the advantages of a (Retro) Retrospective Rating Plan for an employer?

  • They can be the least expensive option for securing workers compensation coverage;
  • They are somewhat easily available, depending on the current market place and carrier availability;
  • The rating options and plan design are very flexible;
  • They create strong loss control incentive
  • They provide an excellent cash flow possibility

What are the disadvantages of a Retrospective (Retro) Rating Plan?

  • They can be the most expensive option if loss experience is poor during the retro period
  • The functions of the plan are not understood, lack of understanding how the adjustments work and creates a problem for an employer’s accounting and budgeting
  • Can lead to large annual cost of risk fluctuations
  • Often require high collateral and audited financials
  • Poor handling of claims can cause higher cost



Jordan Markuson of Heffernan Insurance Brokers strategizes with clients to form a unique insurance program best fitted to their exposure, risk tolerance and cash flow.  Jordan champions a holistic approach to the marketing, loss control, actuarial and claims process that significantly reduces premiums.