2018 NWCDC Preview

2018 NWCDC: The Can’t Miss Sessions, Speakers and More from This Year’s Workers’ Comp Conference

The claims advocacy model is just one of many important topics on the agenda for 2018 NWCDC this December at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
By: | October 15, 2018 • 5 min read

In the years since “advocacy claims management” gained traction among employers willing to break with tradition, it has been practiced, studied and surveyed enough for the jury to return a verdict: It produces better outcomes and is an effective strategy to control workers’ compensation litigation.


“In the past, we talked about advocacy claims management’s potential to address the needs of injured workers, so they wouldn’t go to an attorney,” said Roberto Ceniceros, senior editor for Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Conference & Expo (NWCDC), which will be held Dec. 5-7 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

“Now practitioners can talk about how to practice it effectively.”

Unlike the traditional adversarial claims model — designed to rein in the few bad actors, but imposed indiscriminately on the majority of workers who simply want to get well and return to work — the advocacy claims model takes a collaborative approach to workers’ compensation, making litigation unwanted and unnecessary for the majority.

“We’re seeing a paradigm shift from ‘claims management’ to ‘injured worker assistance,’ ” said Jill Dulich, claims and operations manager, California Self-Insurers’ Security Fund and NWCDC board member.

Despite its demonstrable benefits, both financial and in employee morale, “many companies and claims people think the advocacy model is too hard for them to adopt. It’s not,” Dulich said, as a panel of speakers will explain in the conference session “How Advocacy Programs Produce Optimal Outcomes.”

In keeping with the conference’s goal of providing actionable and sustainable information to attendees, the session panel will also offer advice on program implementation and measurement, Dulich said.

Practical Take-Home Lessons Coming From 2018 NWCDC

All conference presenters will offer practical, real-life experience and case studies that attendees can take back to their companies, Ceniceros said.

Sessions are pitched to a broad range of experience. “They run the gamut from Workers’ Comp 101 to fairly advanced,” Dulich said, and give attendees insight into “a very broad-based capsule of national information.”

Jill Dulich, claims and operations manager, California Self-Insurers’ Security Fund

Dulich uses the conference to track trends in jurisdictions other than her own in California. “It prepares me for changes that might be coming down the road in my own jurisdiction. I get a heads up.”

A mega-session, “Steal These Ideas! Teddy-Award Winning Employers Showcase Their Successful Strategies,” beams the spotlight on four award-winning workers’ compensation programs from organizations in retail, health care, the public sector and education.

“These case studies apply across sectors and industries,” said Ceniceros. “Attendees learn from the best.”

Departing from previous years’ tradition of a keynote speaker from within the industry, seven-time Olympic medalist Shannon Miller, now an advocate for women and children’s health, will describe how the gold-medal mindset overcomes challenges and inspires success.

The survivor of numerous injuries that threatened to derail her gymnastics career, her keynote address will describe resilience and the gold-medal mindset — which may apply to efforts the workers’ compensation industry makes on behalf of injured workers.

With tracks devoted to claims management, disability management, medical management, legal/regulatory issues, program management and technology, “there’s something useful for all workers’ comp professionals,” said Ceniceros.

Dulich “likes to pick up a lot of tidbits about what other people are doing that I can do in my own program.” For example, she attended a pharmacy session at the 2017 conference that introduced her to a key metric to measure success. “I went home, looked at my program and used the metric to measure my service provider’s performance.”

In total, the conference features 38 breakout sessions, two “mega sessions” and one general session.  But opportunities to learn aren’t confined to educational sessions, Dulich added. It’s also an opportunity for attendees to “build their Rolodex of contacts.”

Troubled Claims

While advocacy claims management aims to avoid troubled claims, sometimes they’re inevitable. The conference offers help on those, too.


In a session in the track dedicated to medical management, “Getting Difficult, Frustrating and Expensive Claims Unstuck,” medical experts will explain how to first identify the obstacles that delay healing and recovery, then the biopsychosocial interventions that can put claims back on track. Presenters will offer exemplary communications drawn from actual claims that apply to other real-life situations.

“We’re seeing a paradigm shift from ‘claims management’ to ‘injured worker assistance.’ ” — Jill Dulich, claims and operations manager, California Self-Insurers’ Security Fund; board member, 2018 NWCDC

Avoiding, Managing and Winning Workers’ Comp Litigation” addresses both aspects of litigation management: knowing how to prevent court involvement and winning when a trial is inevitable. The speakers, including an expert on workers’ compensation cost containment, will offer advice on hiring the right lawyers and dealing with those who don’t understand the complexity of workers’ comp law.

Another session in the Legal/Legislative Issues track, “Avoiding Unintended Consequences, Obtaining Desired Litigation and Legislation Results,” describes how, without strategic thought and experience, the legislative or legal “solution” to one problem can create worse problems.

Presenters will describe real-world examples of decisions that produced unintended consequences, then offer guidance on how to think more strategically.

Return to Work

The conference devotes three sessions to return-to-work issues. In a general session, “A Powerful Combination: Return-to-Work Strategy with Value-Based Accommodations,” a large media company’s senior disabilities manager will discuss how a strong workplace ADA accommodation program, rather than throwing up productivity roadblocks, can improve employee engagement, loyalty, productivity, presenteeism and the bottom line.

A related session, “A Case Study for Shortening Disability Durations with On-Site Resources,” describes how Norton Healthcare’s pilot program to improve the return-to-work process produced a 4:1 return on investment. In its first phase, the program cut 1,200 lost work days by applying ergonomic best practices, improving accommodations and providing psychosocial support.

2018 NWCDC: For the Techies

The 2018 conference continues the technology track that started in 2017.


Telehealth’s Emerging Role in Workers’ Compensation” discusses bringing high-quality, affordable health care remotely to injured workers, and its limitations. Among the considerations: the employer’s workforce, technology requirements, medical-provider relations, regulations and vendor selection.

Health care is a favorite target of hackers. The presenters in “Health Care Under Attack: Tools for Combating Insider and Third-Party Cybersecurity Risks,” a risk manager and an attorney will discuss technologies for avoiding internal staff errors, managing supply chain and thwarting hackers.

Tech in pain management is addressed as well. Research findings suggest virtual reality and wearable technologies may reduce medical costs while preventing injured workers’ exposure to opioids. Executives from Travelers and Samsung Electronics — partners in testing the effectiveness of a “digital pain-reduction kit” — will explain in “Virtual Reality and Wearables: Alternatives to Pain Medications” how technology may play a future role in workers’ comp pain management. &

Susannah Levine writes about health care, education and technology. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Exclusive | Hank Greenberg on China Trade, Starr’s Rapid Growth and 100th, Spitzer, Schneiderman and More

In a robust and frank conversation, the insurance legend provides unique insights into global trade, his past battles and what the future holds for the industry and his company.
By: | October 12, 2018 • 12 min read

In 1960, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg was hired as a vice president of C.V. Starr & Co. At age 35, he had already accomplished a great deal.

He served his country as part of the Allied Forces that stormed the beaches at Normandy and liberated the Nazi death camps. He fought again during the Korean War, earning a Bronze Star. He held a law degree from New York Law School.


Now he was ready to make his mark on the business world.

Even C.V. Starr himself — who hired Mr. Greenberg and later hand-picked him as the successor to the company he founded in Shanghai in 1919 — could not have imagined what a mark it would be.

Mr. Greenberg began to build AIG as a Starr subsidiary, then in 1969, he took it public. The company would, at its peak, achieve a market cap of some $180 billion and cement its place as the largest insurance and financial services company in history.

This month, Mr. Greenberg travels to China to celebrate the 100th anniversary of C.V. Starr & Co. That visit occurs at a prickly time in U.S.-Sino relations, as the Trump administration levies tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese goods and China retaliates.

In September, Risk & Insurance® sat down with Mr. Greenberg in his Park Avenue office to hear his thoughts on the centennial of C.V. Starr, the dynamics of U.S. trade relationships with China and the future of the U.S. insurance industry as it faces the challenges of technology development and talent recruitment and retention, among many others. What follows is an edited transcript of that discussion.

R&I: One hundred years is quite an impressive milestone for any company. Celebrating the anniversary in China signifies the importance and longevity of that relationship. Can you tell us more about C.V. Starr’s history with China?

Hank Greenberg: We have a long history in China. I first went there in 1975. There was little there, but I had business throughout Asia, and I stopped there all the time. I’d stop there a couple of times a year and build relationships.

When I first started visiting China, there was only one state-owned insurance company there, PICC (the People’s Insurance Company of China); it was tiny at the time. We helped them to grow.

I also received the first foreign life insurance license in China, for AIA (The American International Assurance Co.). To date, there has been no other foreign life insurance company in China. It took me 20 years of hard work to get that license.

We also introduced an agency system in China. They had none. Their life company employees would get a salary whether they sold something or not. With the agency system of course you get paid a commission if you sell something. Once that agency system was installed, it went on to create more than a million jobs.

R&I: So Starr’s success has meant success for the Chinese insurance industry as well.

Hank Greenberg: That’s partly why we’re going to be celebrating that anniversary there next month. That celebration will occur alongside that of IBLAC (International Business Leaders’ Advisory Council), an international business advisory group that was put together when Zhu Rongji was the mayor of Shanghai [Zhu is since retired from public life]. He asked me to start that to attract foreign companies to invest in Shanghai.

“It turns out that it is harder [for China] to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

Shanghai and China in general were just coming out of the doldrums then; there was a lack of foreign investment. Zhu asked me to chair IBLAC and to help get it started, which I did. I served as chairman of that group for a couple of terms. I am still a part of that board, and it will be celebrating its 30th anniversary along with our 100th anniversary.


We have a good relationship with China, and we’re candid as you can tell from the op-ed I published in the Wall Street Journal. I’m told that my op-ed was received quite well in China, by both Chinese companies and foreign companies doing business there.

On August 29, Mr. Greenberg published an opinion piece in the WSJ reminding Chinese leaders of the productive history of U.S.-Sino relations and suggesting that Chinese leaders take pragmatic steps to ease trade tensions with the U.S.

R&I: What’s your outlook on current trade relations between the U.S. and China?

Hank Greenberg: As to the current environment, when you are in negotiations, every leader negotiates differently.

President Trump is negotiating based on his well-known approach. What’s different now is that President Xi (Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China) made himself the emperor. All the past presidents in China before the revolution had two terms. He’s there for life, which makes things much more difficult.

R&I: Sure does. You’ve got a one- or two-term president talking to somebody who can wait it out. It’s definitely unique.

Hank Greenberg: So, clearly a lot of change is going on in China. Some of it is good. But as I said in the op-ed, China needs to be treated like the second largest economy in the world, which it is. And it will be the number one economy in the world in not too many years. That means that you can’t use the same terms of trade that you did 25 or 30 years ago.

They want to have access to our market and other markets. Fine, but you have to have reciprocity, and they have not been very good at that.

R&I: What stands in the way of that happening?

Hank Greenberg: I think there are several substantial challenges. One, their structure makes it very difficult. They have a senior official, a regulator, who runs a division within the government for insurance. He keeps that job as long as he does what leadership wants him to do. He may not be sure what they want him to do.

For example, the president made a speech many months ago saying they are going to open up banking, insurance and a couple of additional sectors to foreign investment; nothing happened.

The reason was that the head of that division got changed. A new administrator came in who was not sure what the president wanted so he did nothing. Time went on and the international community said, “Wait a minute, you promised that you were going to do that and you didn’t do that.”

So the structure is such that it is very difficult. China can’t react as fast as it should. That will change, but it is going to take time.

R&I: That’s interesting, because during the financial crisis in 2008 there was talk that China, given their more centralized authority, could react more quickly, not less quickly.

Hank Greenberg: It turns out that it is harder to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.

R&I: Obviously, you have a very unique perspective and experience in China. For American companies coming to China, what are some of the current challenges?


Hank Greenberg: Well, they very much want to do business in China. That’s due to the sheer size of the country, at 1.4 billion people. It’s a very big market and not just for insurance companies. It’s a whole range of companies that would like to have access to China as easily as Chinese companies have access to the United States. As I said previously, that has to be resolved.

It’s not going to be easy, because China has a history of not being treated well by other countries. The U.S. has been pretty good in that way. We haven’t taken advantage of China.

R&I: Your op-ed was very enlightening on that topic.

Hank Greenberg: President Xi wants to rebuild the “middle kingdom,” to what China was, a great country. Part of that was his takeover of the South China Sea rock islands during the Obama Administration; we did nothing. It’s a little late now to try and do something. They promised they would never militarize those islands. Then they did. That’s a real problem in Southern Asia. The other countries in that region are not happy about that.

R&I: One thing that has differentiated your company is that it is not a public company, and it is not a mutual company. We think you’re the only large insurance company with that structure at that scale. What advantages does that give you?

Hank Greenberg: Two things. First of all, we’re more than an insurance company. We have the traditional investment unit with the insurance company. Then we have a separate investment unit that we started, which is very successful. So we have a source of income that is diverse. We don’t have to underwrite business that is going to lose a lot of money. Not knowingly anyway.

R&I: And that’s because you are a private company?

Hank Greenberg: Yes. We attract a different type of person in a private company.

R&I: Do you think that enables you to react more quickly?

Hank Greenberg: Absolutely. When we left AIG there were three of us. Myself, Howie Smith and Ed Matthews. Howie used to run the internal financials and Ed Matthews was the investment guy coming out of Morgan Stanley when I was putting AIG together. We started with three people and now we have 3,500 and growing.

“I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

R&I:  You being forced to leave AIG in 2005 really was an injustice, by the way. AIG wouldn’t have been in the position it was in 2008 if you had still been there.


Hank Greenberg: Absolutely not. We had all the right things in place. We met with the financial services division once a day every day to make sure they stuck to what they were supposed to do. Even Hank Paulson, the Secretary of Treasury, sat on the stand during my trial and said that if I’d been at the company, it would not have imploded the way it did.

R&I: And that fateful decision the AIG board made really affected the course of the country.

Hank Greenberg: So many people lost all of their net worth. The new management was taking on billions of dollars’ worth of risk with no collateral. They had decimated the internal risk management controls. And the government takeover of the company when the financial crisis blew up was grossly unfair.

From the time it went public, AIG’s value had increased from $300 million to $180 billion. Thanks to Eliot Spitzer, it’s now worth a fraction of that. His was a gross misuse of the Martin Act. It gives the Attorney General the power to investigate without probable cause and bring fraud charges without having to prove intent. Only in New York does the law grant the AG that much power.

R&I: It’s especially frustrating when you consider the quality of his own character, and the scandal he was involved in.

In early 2008, Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging a meeting with a prostitute at a Washington Hotel and resigned shortly thereafter.

Hank Greenberg: Yes. And it’s been successive. Look at Eric Schneiderman. He resigned earlier this year when it came out that he had abused several women. And this was after he came out so strongly against other men accused of the same thing. To me it demonstrates hypocrisy and abuse of power.

Schneiderman followed in Spitzer’s footsteps in leveraging the Martin Act against numerous corporations to generate multi-billion dollar settlements.

R&I: Starr, however, continues to thrive. You said you’re at 3,500 people and still growing. As you continue to expand, how do you deal with the challenge of attracting talent?

Hank Greenberg: We did something last week.

On September 16th, St. John’s University announced the largest gift in its 148-year history. The Starr Foundation donated $15 million to the school, establishing the Maurice R. Greenberg Leadership Initiative at St. John’s School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science.

Hank Greenberg: We have recruited from St. John’s for many, many years. These are young people who want to be in the insurance industry. They don’t get into it by accident. They study to become proficient in this and we have recruited some very qualified individuals from that school. But we also recruit from many other universities. On the investment side, outside of the insurance industry, we also recruit from Wall Street.

R&I: We’re very interested in how you and other leaders in this industry view technology and how they’re going to use it.

Hank Greenberg: I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.

R&I: So as the pre-eminent leader of the insurance industry, what do you see in terms of where insurance is now an where it’s going?

Hank Greenberg: The country and the world will always need insurance. That doesn’t mean that what we have today is what we’re going to have 25 years from now.

How quickly the change comes and how far it will go will depend on individual companies and individual countries. Some will be more brave than others. But change will take place, there is no doubt about it.


More will go on in space, there is no question about that. We’re involved in it right now as an insurance company, and it will get broader.

One of the things you have to worry about is it’s now a nuclear world. It’s a more dangerous world. And again, we have to find some way to deal with that.

So, change is inevitable. You need people who can deal with change.

R&I:  Is there anything else, Mr. Greenberg, you want to comment on?

Hank Greenberg: I think I’ve covered it. &

The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]