2017 NWCDC

Integration Made Easy

Focus on quick treatment and not so much on the source of injury, experts advise.
By: | December 7, 2017 • 2 min read

For two winners of the most prestigious award in workers’ compensation program management and the CEO of a major TPA, the message is relatively simple: Be clear with injured workers, give them a contact to talk to and let them see a good doctor.

And then watch your workers’ compensation costs plummet.

Susan Emerson, general manager, claims management, disability, leave and workers’ compensation claims, Delta Air Lines

Of course there are complicating factors; labor organizations and state regulations can be so complex, they’ll have you scratching your head. Maybe that’s why, according to Dave North, CEO, Sedgwick, achieving seamlessness between family leave, disability and workers’ compensation functions can seem so elusive.

“Very few employers, actually, have a fully integrated plan,” said North, as he kicked off the morning session “Integrated Benefits: Harder Than You Might Think” at the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Dec. 6.

His two co-panelists, Susan Emerson, general manager — claims management, disability, leave and workers’ compensation claims, Delta Air Lines, and Dawn Watkins, director, integrated disability management, the Los Angeles Unified School District, both emphasized the importance of focusing not so much on what you can deny in a a claim, but in how soon you can get an injured worker to the right doctor.

“We have really focused on getting the employee to the right specialist, as soon as the injury occurs,” said Emerson, who along with her teammates, won a Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award this year.

“We have really focused on getting the employee to the right specialist, as soon as the injury occurs.” — Susan Emerson, general manager, claims management, disability, leave and workers’ compensation claims, Delta Air Lines

L.A. Unified won the Teddy Award in 2008 for executing a stunning turnaround of the workers’ compensation and disability program at the second largest school district in the country.

Both Emerson and Watson said they focus on saying yes more than no. Settle cases reasonably, settle them quickly, and don’t badger injured people with utilization reviews if you can help it, they advise. &

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]

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]