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Alexander and work comp reform

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By Merilee Dannemann

Ben Alexander was still going strong the last time I saw him, about 10 years ago, when he sat on a panel for a retrospective on the New Mexico workers’ compensation reform of 1990.  He had been an indispensable member of the task force that labored for months hammering out a compromise to save the state’s economy.
Alexander died in January at age 91. He is remembered for his political activism, chairmanship of numerous boards, philanthropic activity, and for always being willing to travel from his home town of Hobbs to wherever he was needed.   
He owned an oil well servicing company. In the mid-1980s, businesses like his were paying as much as $67 in workers’ compensation premiums for every $100 of payroll.  Construction and other labor-intensive industries had similar crippling costs, but Texas companies could work in New Mexico while paying much lower Texas rates. New Mexico was in real crisis. Insurance costs were so unstable that insurers simply stopped writing policies in New Mexico.
With the business community up in arms, the law was changed several times over five years, culminating in the 1990 reform. By that time, half of all policies were in the Assigned Risk Pool – the special class of insurance, extra expensive, normally reserved for bad risks.    


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