By Nancy Grover
In a departure from the typical general session intended to attract all attendees, conference organizers will hold a series of sessions focusing on specific sections of the country and the issues unique to them on the second day of the conference.
While the national focus of the conference dictates sessions that transcend specific jurisdictions, "we also realize that there are some unique issues in different regions of the country," said Mark Walls, assistant vice president of claims for Safety National and conference communications chair. "Because of that, we decided to do regional breakout sessions."
While the final details are still being developed, here are the regions and some of the topics that will be covered in each.
Northeast - Workforce shift.
Upstate New York, Ohio, and other parts of the so-called Rust Belt have been uniquely impacted by the economy. What was once a manufacturing base has shifted to more of a technology-focused workforce, creating difficulties for much of the Northeast.
"You're evolving your workforce, having people coming out of a manufacturing environment, and don't have jobs to put them back into," Walls explained. "That's created challenges in return to work."
The loss of manufacturing jobs in the Northeast has also led to problems with group self-insured trusts in New York state. "The economy played a big factor in the struggles of those trusts because the rates were kept down due to the bad economy," Walls said. "It really hurt them."
Maureen McCarthy, senior vice president and manager of workers' compensation claims for Liberty Mutual in Boston, will moderate the panel discussion.
Southeast - Opioids. Perhaps no issue has challenged the workers' comp system more than opioids of late. In fact, one entire track of breakout sessions for this year's conference is devoted entirely to the use and misuse of opioids.
"The reason to focus on the Southeast is that the interstate up from Florida has really been the focus of the trafficking of opioids," Walls said. "Getting medications from the so-called pill mills in Florida and trafficking them -- to Kentucky, Tennessee, and other areas has been a focal point of the battle on the misuse of opioids," Walls said.
Midwest - Reforms to spur business. Illinois, Missouri and Kansas are among the states that have recently adopted wide-ranging reforms to their workers' comp systems. Unlike reforms passed in other jurisdictions over the years, the Midwestern states have had a specific goal: "to try to make their states more friendly for business," Walls said. "You have states such as Wisconsin and Indiana who are openly marketing to Illinois employers saying, 'come to our state, we are a more business-friendly environment.'"
Patrick Venditti, director of Corporate Health Services for BJS Healthcare, will lead the discussion on efforts to reform workers' comp systems as a means of making states more attractive for business.
West - Quasi-state comp carriers.
The largest workers' comp carriers in some western states have close ties with the state governments. Colorado, Arizona, Washington, and Oregon are among the examples of jurisdictions where more employers turn to quasi-state insurers than the private marketplace.
"The question is, it is a good thing for the largest workers' comp carrier in a state to be a quasi state agency?" Walls said. "It's an interesting question."
As Walls pointed out, Nevada asked the question several years ago and determined that it was not in the state's best interest. "It was taking away tax revenue, taking away business from the state." Nevada ultimately turned its quasi-state entity into a private company.
The panel, led by Denise Gillen-Algire, RN, practice leader for integrated health and productivity management of Risk Navigation Group in New Mexico, will address whether other states should follow suit, and whether it is in the best interests of employers, injured workers, and the states themselves to be in the workers' comp business.
California - Liens. "While we tried to avoid state-specific sessions, we made California its own region because some problems are unique to it," Walls said. The number one issue: liens.
"No other state has the issue with medical liens that California has," Walls said. "It's a multi-billion dollar drain on the system."
The issue of liens is not only a financial drain on the California workers' comp system, "but from the administrative agency standpoint it is a huge burden on the system."
Hearing dockets are often packed with liens, as hearing officers spend time on them "instead of getting to cases where they are dealing with injured workers," Walls said. "The medical liens are not providing a benefit to injured workers, and yet it is absolutely clogging the system."
The panel will be moderated by Martin Brady, executive director of Schools Insurance.
The 21st annual National Workers' Compensation and Disability ConferenceŽ
& Expo takes place at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Nov. 7-9. The conference is produced by LRP Publications.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
April 23, 2012
Copyright 2012© LRP Publications