By CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor of Risk & InsuranceŽ
A quick scan of the latest goings-on in the world of workers' compensation and disability management finds the headlines all over the map.
In case anyone needed a little convincing, here were some news items recently on the WorkersComp Forum, our website devoted to workers' comp issues:
"California: Use of compound drugs up sharply in comp system," screams one headline; "Colorado: Largest comp insurer fined for failing to identify rating factors," blares another; "Washington state: Dept. of Labor and Industries extends program to pay premiums," reads a third; "Ohio: Bureau pleased with gains in investment portfolio," says a fourth.
In Iowa, the National Council on Compensation Insurance is recommending a 4.7 percent increase in loss costs; and to the north in Montana, comp system reform is headed to the Big Sky legislature.
Down south, in Texas, an audit of the workers' compensation division finds enforcement problems; and in Kentucky rate filings have been approved, sending loss costs down for fifth year.
When it comes to commercial insurance coverage, workers' compensation is always a lively place to be. After all, when a system is run by 50 different regulators you can expect a little fireworks here and there.
And that's why workers' comp and disability managers could use a little bit help navigating the shoals of a system that many may love to hate but wouldn't want to do without.
To shed light on market trends and on which decisions are likely to have the most impact on the system in the coming years, a panel of high-ranking insurance officials from key states will gather for a general session titled "Needle-Moving States: Developments That Drive the Nation."
The session will take place Nov. 10, from 8:45 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., and lively debate is expected to ensue. Just look at the line-up.
At bat: Christine Baker, executive officer, California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation, Oakland, Calif; Rod Bordelon, commissioner, workers' compensation division, Texas Department of Insurance, Austin, Texas; Elizabeth Crum, deputy secretary for compensation and insurance, Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, Harrisburg, Pa.; and Tanner Holloman, director, division of workers' compensation, Florida Department of Financial Services, Tallahassee, Fla.
Still other panelists are expected, conference organizers said. Workers' comp veteran Mark Noonan, managing principal in the casualty practice of Integro Insurance Brokers, is on deck to play umpire and keep these regulatory heavyweights in line.
Healthy debate among regulators is just part of the action at the 19th Annual National Workers' Compensation and Disability ConferenceŽ &
Expo from Nov. 10 to Nov. 12.
No Annual National Workers' Compensation and Disability ConferenceŽ & Expo would be complete without its favorite son, workers' comp and disability consultant Richard Pimentel, senior partner at Milt Wright & Associates.
Pimentel, no doubt the most well-known disability expert speaking at the conference, is going to talk about doing more with less, a subject about which Pimentel usually knows more than anyone else at the conference.
Coming back from Vietnam with hearing loss sustained in battle, the disabled Pimentel was the subject of the Hollywood movie "The Music Within," starring Ron Livingston.
Pimentel's general session, "Doing More With Less: Lessons Learned From the Recession," is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 11, from 8:45 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
With the economy limping along with what appears to be an anemic rebound many companies are trying to grow their bottom lines but remain cautious about hiring.
Businesses that do expand will have more inexperienced employees. Either way, it remains a recipe for more claims activity.
How can employers protect themselves? Pimentel will assess the opposing forces at play and brief managers on how best to apply lessons learned from the recession to the new economy.
Pimentel, though, isn't going away after delivering his general session. He comes back for an encore to quarterback a session in claims management titled "Return to Work: A Case Management Approach to Save You Money."
The session is offered on Thursday, Nov. 11, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. Pimentel is expected to delve into the roles and the responsibilities of claims managers, and how they can cut costs for an employer's workers' comp program.
Pimentel will provide answers to the questions, What do you need to do differently and how can you work closely with a case manager to make this happen?
Do we detect a theme here? This year it's all about saving money as the economy continues to sputter.
Let's not forget that this is a conference for national workers' comp and disability managers, too. The spotlight, therefore, ought to shine on corporate comp and disability insiders as well.
Respected professionals like Patricia Hostine, corporate manager for workers' comp with Cooper Standard Automotive; Ernie Machado, risk manager for the poultry company Foster Farms; and John Smolk, manager for workers' comp programs with United Airlines are scheduled to lead sessions.
Hostine is scheduled to pair up with her Cooper Standard colleague, Steven M. Krile, an information manager, on Thursday, Nov. 11, from 10:45 a.m. to 12 p.m., for a session titled "Connecting the Dots: Harnessing Your Data for Cost Containment."
These two professionals from the automotive industry have built a system that brings data--number of injuries, dollars spent, lost time, average accrual, reserve changes--into a simple, meaningful and sustainable system.
Machado of Foster Farms in Livingston, Calif., and Connie Miller, vice president, BTE Technologies, Inc. in Greenwood Village, Colo., are scheduled to host the seminar on reducing costs while reducing injuries Thursday, Nov. 11, from 10:45 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Machado, named a Risk InnovatorTM in 2009 by Risk & InsuranceŽ, implemented a post-offer employment testing program that resulted in the closing of 100 percent of new claims in the first 12 months.
Attendees looking for more insight on how to use data to cut into the number of workers' comp claims, should listen to United Airlines' Smolk, and Srivatsan Sridharan, senior vice president with Marsh in Chicago.
Smolk and Sridharan will present the airline's success and challenges using predictive modeling in a session Thursday, Nov. 11, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Using predictive modeling to identify potentially expensive claims early in the process can result in big savings. The trick is to find the model that's best for your organization.
United Airlines went through the process by evaluating several modeling tools and the accuracy of each, and the speakers will outline the challenges they faced, the tools' accuracy, and application of the model.
Flagging claims before they get to the point of warranting legal intervention is the expertise of Julie Sfurm, corporate risk operations manager for Elkay Manufacturing in Oak Brook, Ill.
She will speak on Thursday, Nov. 11, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. about nurse case management, and understanding the red flag moments in the life of a claim.
Sfurm, a 20-year workers' comp veteran, will outline the red flags and the corrective actions to take before it's too late. Her session is titled "Red Flags: What They Are and What to Do About Them."
As all veteran workers' comp and disability managers know, effective injury prevention is about more than safety and loss control. Done correctly, it can reduce workers' comp costs by 20 percent to 30 percent.
Costco, one of the country's largest self-insured employers, has built a successful program in some of its stores by providing on-site injury prevention and physical therapy treatment to its employees.
Costco uses on-site clinicians to perform work tasks to teach and reinforce good techniques as well as how to identify cost-effective ways to reduce the risk of injury.
Katrina Zitnik, director of workers' compensation with Costco in Isaaquah, Wash., is scheduled to be the guest speaker for a session titled "Building a Dynamic Prevention Program That Enhances Safety and Loss Control."
Carisa Harris, director of service solutions with PreCare in Sonoma, Calif., will join her to uncover how best to stop injuries before they happen, and make sure unavoidable injuries are less severe and less costly.
The session, Thursday, Nov. 11, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., will be moderated by Jody Thompson, PreCare's vice president of marketing and sales.
November 1, 2010
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