By DAVE KITTROSS, a writer in the Washington bureau of cyberFEDS®
, a newsletter owned by LRP Publications Inc., the parent company of Risk & Insurance®
The Marine Corps personal and family readiness division has cut per-claim costs for its workers' compensation program by more than 40 percent in five years.
The keys to success are twofold: An effective loss prevention and safety program that uses technology to ensure safety officers have sufficient resources at their fingertips, and common goals developed through improvements in communication and education.
"We realized that a successful program required ownership and buy-in from all the relevant parties, and we sought an atmosphere of partnership with everyone who might deal with our program design and impact the outcome of a work injury," said Barbara Karkula, manager of the Marines workers' compensation program.
The Marine Corps was selected the winner in the federal government sector for a 2010 Theodore Roosevelt Workers' Comp and Disability Award for its workers' comp program improvements.
Karkula said increasing awareness of the program has helped decrease negative perceptions about workers' comp, which once prompted a command director to call workers' compensation "a cancer."
Education and training programs have been critical for military commanders, representatives from the U.S. Labor Department who are brought in to talk to command personnel, adjusters from the third-party administrator, and local medical providers, who are provided information on light-duty opportunities.
Headquarters also provides one-on-one training to workers' compensation field staff, and each year during review visits, training sessions for managers and supervisors are offered. To help make the training more enjoyable, it is presented in a "game show format," which encourages high participation from attendees.
Another key to improving command loss prevention and safety programs was adding safety officers to workers' compensation teams. This allowed them to recommend action before accidents occurred, as well as better analyze problems and resolve them. To make sure officers have the resources to do their jobs, safety officers can access a personalized website. It contains a library of safety videos, a collection of safety newsletters and training information, and safety bulletin board material that is sent out monthly. Documents can also be posted to the website for sharing among the safety officer community.
There is also a continual review of the existing return-to-work program. That includes light-duty opportunities and a medical management program using in-house nursing care provided by the third-party administrator. Commands that meet lost-time goals are rewarded with lower premiums, freeing up more money for family programs.
The bottom line? Over the last five years, the program has cut costs and returned injured workers to work more quickly, and has seen reductions in total costs per claim, from $7,520 in 2005 to $4,330 in 2009. Medical costs per indemnity claim have also dropped, from $3,066 in 2005 to $2,164 in 2009.
The average number of days lost per lost-time claim of more than three days has plummeted from 46 in 2005 to 22 in 2009. (That number does not include permanent total disability claims).
Despite its success, the program is not resting on its laurels. That's just not the way it works in the U.S. Marine Corps.
"We analyze our data consistently and bounce new ideas off of our partners," Karkula said. "If there are cutting-edge tactics out there, there is no excuse for the 'we've always done it that way (mentality).' "
Karkula added, "Someone from another service (branch) once told me, 'The Marines lead the way.' We want to continue to lead the pack."
November 1, 2010
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