Like the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes, West Virginiaâ€™s workersâ€™ compensation insurance program has gone from monumental losses as a state-run agency to unfathomable success in the free market.
At the time of its demise as a state agency in 2006, the stateâ€™s workersâ€™ compensation program had a $3 billion debt.
Then-Gov. Joe Manchin led the effort to move the program into the private marketplace and worked to pay off the debt.
Both avenues bore fruit, with the state paying off the debt early, in a little over 10 years, and BrickStreet, the private entity formed, developing into a marketplace leader.
That development has reaped huge benefits for West Virginia businesses, which have seen huge drops in the workersâ€™ compensation premiums, most to the tune of 60 to 70 percent.
And more cost savings is on the way as a recent filing with the stateâ€™s insurance commissioner calls for a further 4.1 percent reduction.
Also, the program expects a loss cost decrease of 1.6 percent, saving employers $3 million in the coming year. It marks the 15th consecutive year for a decrease in this key industry indicator.
National statistics show that state companies have saved about $401 million in premiums since the privatization.
And BrickStreet has flourished, now joining ranks with Motorists Insurance Group to become Encova Mutual Insurance Group.
Motorists and BrickStreet joined together in 2017, and have now rolled out the new name, bringing these two strong companies together â€œto develop an all-encompassing new brand that gives agents and policyholders a one stop-shop to provide peace of mind for every step in lifeâ€™s journey,â€ according to the companyâ€™s release.
While it is worth celebrating BrickStreetâ€™s success as a private entity, it is more remarkable to realize from whence it came and what it took to get this far.
Too often, new ideas and change are shunned, especially when it comes to government.
As famed economist Milton Friedman once wrote, â€œThere is nothing more permanent than a temporary government program.â€
That isnâ€™t to say some government programs arenâ€™t worthwhile and in some cases, life-sustaining for those in need.
But at the same time, the West Virginia workersâ€™ compensation program is an example of how free-market economics can lead to great cost savings for businesses and taxpayers.
Itâ€™s hard to imagine how worse off our state could be if the workersâ€™ compensation program had stayed state-run.
But instead of dealing with that aftermath, we can celebrate the success of the stateâ€™s workersâ€™ comp debt being paid off early and the savings being reaped by the companies trying to do business in West Virginia.
And thatâ€™s a win-win for everyone.