AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Bureau of Insurance on Thursday approved a rate decrease for workers’ compensation insurance that is expected to save Maine businesses $15.2 million.

The bureau based its approval on a recommendation the National Council on Compensation Insurance, a rating organization that analyzes workers’ comp insurance rates for several states, including Maine, made in a report released earlier this month.

The 7.7-percent average rate reduction is the largest decrease in workers’ comp rates the state has experienced since 1998, according to Paul Sighinolfi, executive director of the Maine Workers Compensation Board.

Sighinolfi said the reduction is justified.

“Injuries are down, the severity is down and the associated costs as a result have been decreased,” he wrote to the BDN in an email. “Employers are meeting their workers’ compensation obligations and injured workers are meeting theirs. Our system is working as designed and everyone benefits when that is the case.”

The reduction, scheduled to take effect on April 1, will save businesses that buy workers’ comp insurance on the commercial market an estimated $15.2 million, according to calculations provided by the Maine Bureau of Insurance. While businesses that self-insure are experiencing the same reduction in severity and associated costs, this rate reduction will not directly affect them.

While the average rate reduction will be 7.7 percent, various industries will experience different rate reductions. For example, the average manufacturer in Maine will see a 7.9 percent reduction in rates, while, on average, contractors are facing a 9.2 percent reduction.

“I think its great news for state,” Eric Cioppa, superintendent of the insurance bureau, told the BDN on Thursday. “Reductions in workers’ compensation costs reduces the cost of doing business in Maine.”

Insurance carriers such as the Maine Employers’ Mutual Insurance Co., commonly referred to as MEMIC, now have the option to adopt the recommended rate reduction or not, according to Cioppa. Most carriers automatically adopt the bureau’s recommendation, Cioppa said, though he can’t be 100 percent certain that will happen.

MEMIC, which controls 62.3 percent of the commercial market in Maine, will be adopting the rate reduction as recommended, according to Michael Bourque, the company’s senior vice president for external affairs.

Overall, workers’ comp rates in Maine have experienced a cumulative decrease of 52.7 percent since workers’ compensation reform was passed in 1992, according to the insurance bureau.

Whit Richardson

Whit Richardson is Business Editor at the Bangor Daily News. He blogs about Maine business, entrepreneurs and the economy.