By CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor of Risk & Insurance®
Workers' compensation and disability managers just ought to come clean and admit they're powerless in stemming the recent decline in the frequency of workers' compensation claims, but that shouldn't stop them from attending the 18th Annual National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo, from Nov. 18 to 20 in Chicago.
Indeed, why would a workers' comp and disability manager even bother showing up at the conference at all when preliminary results indicate a decline in claims frequency of 4 percent last year, following a 2.6 percent drop in frequency in 2007, according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc?
Because claims severity of all kinds is going through the roof, according to the keepers of workers' comp statistics. Besides, who doesn't want to cheer on peers recognized by the Theodore Roosevelt Workers' Comp and Disability Management Award, bestowed on comp managers every year by this magazine?
Workers' comp indemnity severity last year was up 5 percent, handily outpacing wage inflation of 3.7 percent. Workers' comp medical severity, up 6 percent in 2008, is also growing faster than the medical Consumer Price Index, which jumped 3.7 percent.
The increases are relatively tame compared to the severity rate increases of six or seven years ago, but they are still outpacing the inflation indexes. All of which means workers' comp and disability managers can learn plenty at the Annual National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo at McCormick Place.
Take the claims track, for example, a perennial favorite among attendees. Kicking off this year's claims session is a presentation by this year's winners of the Theodore Roosevelt Workers' Compensation and Disability Management Award, bestowed every year by Risk & Insurance® magazine on the best workers' compensation and disability management programs in the private and nonprofit sectors.
The award also recognizes a federal agency of the U.S. government as a way to recognize federal workers' compensation programs, which are governed by different rules.
All of the winners (which will be announced, by the way, in our November issue, both online and in print) will be recognized on Wednesday, Nov. 18, during a luncheon ceremony from 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. hosted by Risk & Insurance® Publisher Matthew Kahn and Editor in Chief Jack Roberts.
The real secrets from the winner will come out from 2:45 p.m. to 4 p.m., in a session titled "Best of the Best: Winners of the Theodore Roosevelt Workers' Compensation and Disability Management Awards."
The session, moderated by Yolanda Romero, director of workers' compensation for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), and a former winner of the Teddy Award, will reveal just how and why this year's winners were deserving of the recognition.
Less than 24 hours later, Jill Dulich, senior director of Marriott Claims Services for Marriott International Inc. in Santa Ana, Calif., will spill her secrets on how best to conduct drug screening for injured workers to make sure they're taking their medicine.
In addition, Dulich will brief attendees on how to use radiology analyses to avoid unnecessary surgeries--welcome in an age when hospitals bill carriers by the tens of thousand of dollars for work lasting less than an hour.
Dulich takes center stage on Thursday, Nov. 19, from 8:45 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Marriott International, of course, isn't the only Fortune 1,000 company willing to share it's best practices with the industry.
Carla Cirelli Wynn, director of workers' compensation programs for hospitality services company Aramark, and Deborah Saunders, senior director of claims management with Comcast are giving a joint lecture on the tried-and-true claims management strategies that have worked for them in the past.
Even in a difficult economic environment where unscrupulous workers are tempted to file a claim just to see if they can get more money, Aramark and Comcast have slashed claims frequency, cutting costs by millions of dollars.
Wynn and Saunders are scheduled to speak on Thursday, Nov. 19, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.
As always, the conference will feature a claims session dedicated to technology and software.
Technology matters because it has done so much to help workers' comp and disability managers dig into their data.
With clear, intuitive software, managers have been able to improve company safety procedures virtually overnight--from avoiding simple slip and falls to uncovering prescription drug abuse among injured workers.
For this session, aptly named "TechKnowledgy: Demystifying High-Tech to Improve Your Claims Management Process," Robert Wilson, president and CEO of Sarasota-Fla.-based Workerscompensation.com, will demonstrate to managers how they can work faster and better using Google Earth, WiMax and iPhones.
We can't promise Apple will have a booth on the trade show floor; you'll have to wait for Macworld in January for that.
We can promise, though, a host of other talented and dedicated marketing managers from leading workers' compensation companies like Avizent, Heaalthesystems, StrataCare, Progressive Medical Inc., Ingenix, ESIS, Riskonnect and TechHealth.
Wilson is scheduled to speak on Thursday, Nov. 19, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
With the economy having shed hundreds of thousands of jobs and the unemployment rate more than doubling, from 4.4 percent in October 2006 to about 10 percent in Oct. 2009, you can bet that among those laid off are the nation's workers' comp managers.
So how are the managers who remain expected to cope? How do you manage when the department has gone from 10 people to five? What happens when the annual workers' comp and disability management budget goes from $20 million to $10 million?
Darrell Brown, workers' compensation practice lead for Sedgwick Claims Management Services in Long Beach, Calif., and Mike Weiss, director of risk management for AT&T in Hoffman Estates, Ill., will share the strategies they've used to prepare their workforce for economic changes.
Delivering the information in a roundtable format, Brown and Weiss, a former winner of the Theodore Roosevelt Workers' Comp and Disability Award, will share what worked and what didn't.
They will also present specific challenges associated with company downsizing and strategies for how to develop solutions.
"Lessons Learned: Managing Workers' Compensation During Downsizing" is slated for Friday, Nov. 20, from 8:45 a.m. to 10 a.m.
When comp and disability mangers from Marriott International, Aramark, AT&T and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority attend a conference on comp and disability, it's time to face facts: You're in the major leagues.
Which is why every attendee should, barring a scheduling conflict, consider attending the claims track session on how to inspire workers' comp leaders to develop internal company solutions.
This session, hosted by Anthony Avitabile, New York-based director of industry risk management and financial reporting for Major League Baseball, is titled "Internal Quality Councils: Engaging Your Workers' Comp Leaders to Develop Companywide Solutions."
Avitabile will explain how to bring together workers' comp leaders from remote offices to engage in carefully crafted brainstorming sessions and answer the intractable issues facing comp managers. Avitable steps up to the plate Friday, Nov. 20, from 10:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
October 15, 2009
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