The Aging of the American Workforce and Its Impact on Claims Management
By DAN REYNOLDS, senior editor of Risk & InsuranceŽ
CHICAGO---Guess what, America. You and your workforce are getting older and fatter. So is there anything risk managers can do about it? You're darn right there is.
That's the message David Deitz, a Boston-based vice president and medical director for Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., and his colleague, Glenn Pransky, director of the Liberty Mutual's Research Institute for Safety and Health, had for the attendees at the Annual National Workers' Compensation and Disability ConferenceŽ & Expo at McCormick Place in Chicago this week.
A workforce that for economic reasons is staying on the job longer doesn't necessarily translate into a population that is more prone to injury. According to Pransky, and as we well know, some people of a certain age take care of themselves much better than others. That alone leads to wide disparities in factors such as obesity and its impact on workplace injuries.
Dynamics such as workers' degree of attachment to their job and their overall financial health are issues that risk managers might want to consult with older workers about to determine how motivated they are to stay healthy, or return to work should they suffer an injury.
"Certainly a big driver is retirement savings," said Pransky in discussing the reasons why many people are either staying on the job into their seventies or exhibiting a reluctance to report a workplace injury for fear they'll lose their position.
We didn't say the situation is hopeless, but nor are things getting any easier for the risk manager with a mandate to control workers' compensation costs.
For one, there is still a lot of education that needs to take place in the medical community around issues such as the connection between types of diabetes and the healing rate for procedures like rotator cuff surgery.
Deitz, who is responsible for medical review operations and medical policy for Liberty Mutual's workers' compensation business nationwide, said he is very disappointed in the number of orthopedic surgeons who haven't made that connection or are uneducated about it.
"There is an awful lot of sorting out that needs to be done here," Deitz said, referring to the increased responsibility on the part of risk managers to make such connections and to make sure that an older patient gets the physical rehabilitation needed to bring that shoulder back.
(Click here to read all of our other coverage from the
Annual National Workers' Compensation and Disability ConferenceŽ
November 18, 2009
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