Column: Roger's Soapbox

Fifty Is the New Six

By: | September 15, 2014 • 3 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

Insurance is an adult discipline, as are most financial activities. Discipline itself is an adult business, come to think of it. Ask a child to set aside a cookie for later, and watch that cookie vanish in a second.

Children want what they want, and they want it right now. Insurance has therefore faced a hidden stressor in the past 25 years or so, with the infantilization of modern adulthood: 50 is the new 6. The process began, oddly enough, with the financial disciplines, led by the credit card and the advertising industry.


Not long ago, if you wanted something, you saved up for it. No one, until quite recently, would have been able to borrow in order to buy what could not be afforded (with the exception of a home). Credit was a tightly controlled substance.

Then came the two horsemen of the economic apocalypse: Visa and MasterCard. Suddenly, whatever you wanted was available immediately.

Consequences, schmonsequences. No one knew, or cared that the average credit card purchase ended up costing 50 percent more than it needed to, as interest on the unpaid portion accumulated.

The Rolling Stones weren’t the only ones who couldn’t get no satisfaction, nor, apparently, grammar lessons.

Everyone in America, and the cultures that have adopted an American outlook (i.e., most of them) came to believe that like a child demanding ice cream, the phrase, “I want it,” was justification enough. Suddenly, adulthood seemed a bore.

Look around you. Our grandparents wore proper shoes and often uncomfortable formal clothing.

Not us. We wear flip-flops or sneakers. The “onesie,” originally a toddler’s garment, and actual pajamas are now worn in public, with pride.

The hat died with Jack Kennedy. The tie has vanished, although “power dressers” sport them with Gordon Gecko-style suspenders, to show just how adult they are in a world of children.

We Botox away our wrinkles. Plastic surgery aims to reinstate our youthful countenance.

Modern women have Brazilian bikini waxes to make them look like little girls. Talk everywhere is of human rights. For many, the only rights that matter are the right to have our desires met instantaneously and our old age deferred.

People nowadays hug each other. The thought of my grandfather, perennially in his suit and tie, hugging anyone is surreal. Or my father. Or me, come to think of it. But then we’re British, the grown-ups’ grown-ups.

Governments have played their part in the infantilization process: Enter the nanny state. Hush little baby, don’t you cry. No need to think for yourself or take unnecessary risks. Nanny will cope for you.

The challenge insurance will increasingly face, certainly in the personal lines, is persuading potential buyers of the need for insurance. Their safety nets have safety nets.


Go ahead: Build your dream home on a coastline that has borne the brunt of hurricanes for a thousand years. Government will make you whole if it all goes wrong.

Like all fashion trends, this too shall pass. Until that happens, if the need for discipline in all things is not self-evident, you’re a goner.

Poor baby. You’ll need a nanny to sate your needs. The tragedy is that you’ll find one.


More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 Teddy Awards

The Era of Engagement

The very best workers’ compensation programs are the ones where workers aren’t just the subject of the program, they’re a part of it.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 5 min read

Employee engagement, employee advocacy, employee participation — these are common threads running through the programs we honor this year in the 2017 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Awards, sponsored by PMA Companies.

A panel of judges — including workers’ comp executives who actively engage their own employees — selected this year’s winners on the basis of performance, sustainability, innovation and teamwork. The winners hail from different industries and regions, but all make people part of the solution to unique challenges.


Valley Health System is all-too keenly aware of the risk of violence in health care settings, running the gamut from disruptive patients to grieving, overwrought family members to mentally unstable active shooters.

Valley Health employs a proactive and comprehensive plan to respond to violent scenarios, involving its Code Atlas Team — 50 members of the clinical staff and security departments who undergo specialized training. Valley Health drills regularly, including intense annual active shooter drills that involve participation from local law enforcement.

The drills are unnerving for many, but the program is making a difference — the health system cut its workplace violence injuries in half in the course of just one year.

“We’re looking at patient safety and employee safety like never before,” said Barbara Schultz, director of employee health and wellness.

At Rochester Regional Health’s five hospitals and six long-term care facilities, a key loss driver was slips and falls. The system’s mandatory safety shoe program saw only moderate take-up, but the reason wasn’t clear.

Rather than force managers to write up non-compliant employees, senior manager of workers’ compensation and employee safety Monica Manske got proactive, using a survey as well as one-on-one communication to suss out the obstacles. After making changes based on the feedback, shoe compliance shot up from 35 percent to 85 percent, contributing to a 42 percent reduction in lost-time claims and a 46 percent reduction in injuries.

For the shoe program, as well as every RRH safety initiative, Manske’s team takes the same approach: engaging employees to teach and encourage safe behaviors rather than punishing them for lapses.

For some of this year’s Teddy winners, success was born of the company’s willingness to make dramatic program changes.


Delta Air Lines made two ambitious program changes since 2013. First it adopted an employee advocacy model for its disability and leave of absence programs. After tasting success, the company transitioned all lines including workers’ compensation to an integrated absence management program bundled under a single TPA.

While skeptics assume “employee advocacy” means more claims and higher costs, Delta answers with a reality that’s quite the opposite. A year after the transition, Delta reduced open claims from 3,479 to 1,367, with its total incurred amount decreased by $50.1 million — head and shoulders above its projected goals.

For the Massachusetts Port Authority, change meant ending the era of having a self-administered program and partnering with a TPA. It also meant switching from a guaranteed cost program to a self-insured program for a significant segment of its workforce.

Massport’s results make a great argument for embracing change: The organization saved $21 million over the past six years. Freeing up resources allowed Massport to increase focus on safety as well as medical management and chopped its medical costs per claim in half — even while allowing employees to choose their own health care providers.

Risk & Insurance® congratulates the 2017 Teddy Award winners and holds them in high esteem for their tireless commitment to a safe workforce that’s fully engaged in its own care. &


More coverage of the 2017 Teddy Award Winners and Honorable Mentions:

Advocacy Takes Off: At Delta Air Lines, putting employees first is the right thing to do, for employees and employer alike.


Proactive Approach to Employee SafetyThe Valley Health System shifted its philosophy on workers’ compensation, putting employee and patient safety at the forefront.


Getting It Right: Better coordination of workers’ compensation risk management spelled success for the Massachusetts Port Authority.


Carrots: Not SticksAt Rochester Regional Health, the workers’ comp and safety team champion employee engagement and positive reinforcement.


Fit for Duty: Recognizing parallels between athletes and public safety officials, the city of Denver made tailored fitness training part of its safety plan.


Triage, Transparency and TeamworkWhen the City of Surprise, Ariz. got proactive about reining in its claims, it also took steps to get employees engaged in making things better for everyone.

A Lesson in Leadership: Shared responsibility, data analysis and a commitment to employees are the hallmarks of Benco Dental’s workers’ comp program.


Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]