NWCDC Chairman's Message

A Few More Words of Thanks

Roberto Ceniceros offers a message of gratitude to everyone who helped make the 2015 National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo a stand-out success.
By: | November 30, 2015 • 3 min read

The many friends and volunteers who made the recently concluded National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo a smashing success made my list of 2015 wonders to be truly grateful for.


Thinking of their generosity helped make my Thanksgiving holiday particularly meaningful and I hope it enriches your outlook, knowing that there are many colleagues who sincerely care about workers’ comp and how it serves all of us in the industry.

Sure, there are the trying claims that cause frustration, the injured workers needing the best treatment possible, the mounting number of vendor services requiring careful scrutiny, and all the other countless job demands.

But we are also fortunate to have people among us who really care about the sharing of expertise and elevating the industry so that both injured worker and employer are served as best as possible.

My role as NWCDC chairman provides an excellent perch from which to observe the volunteer contributions that I am appreciative of.

I am grateful for our two conference program co-chairs, Denise Algire and Bill Wainscott. The two helped guide speaker selection so that the event’s programming provided highly useful educational information for employers, and other workers’ comp professionals.

Denise is director of managed care and disability, corporate risk, at Albertson’s Safeway Inc. and Bill is manager, workers’ comp and occupational health, at International Paper.

They added to their already busy schedules and time away from home to travel and contribute hours spent in telephone meetings, freely sharing their knowledge and experience. They did this as we brainstormed must-have topics for the year and culled through hundreds of speaker requests for proposals looking for the best mix of presenter attributes.

I am always grateful for people who do their jobs extremely well, no matter the task. Whether I encounter them in my professional role or while on personal business, people who care about their work are truly something to be thankful for.

I have many years of experience writing about workers’ comp and talking with industry experts about the topic. But I have never settled a claim nor negotiated for vendor services. So my deepest thanks to Bill and Denise for their friendship while guiding our topic and speaker selection with an eye for what matters most to employers and other claims payers.

And now that the 2015 conference is behind us and I have heard from many who attended, I can say, job well done, Denise and Bill!

My appreciation also goes out to NWCDC board members. Many of them quickly responded when I needed people to introduce sessions or help host our conference Leadership Connections Lunch.

NWCDC’s board includes: Kathryn Caverly at LexisNexis, Marianne Cloeren at Managed Care Advisors, Jill Dulich at California Self-Insurers’ Security Fund, Ken Eichler at Work Loss Data Institute, Max Koonce, attorney at law, John T. Leonard at MEMIC, Maureen McCarthy at Liberty Mutual, Joe Paduda at Managed Care Matters, Rebecca Shafer at Amaxx Risk Solutions, Mark Sidney at Midwest Employers Casualty Co., Mark Walls at Safety National, Patrick Walsh at Accident Fund Holdings, and Pam Webster at Advance Auto Parts.

Similarly, others freely volunteered to introduce sessions or help host the conference’s lunch. Thanks to Bill Zachry, group VP of risk management at Albertson’s Safeway and Lisa Firestone, president and CEO at Managed Care Advisors for pitching in.


Then there are all the conference speakers. They spent hours preparing and brought a career lifetime of knowledge and experience that made for a particularly strong lineup of breakout sessions. Thanks.

I could continue with the list of conference contributors to be appreciative of, all the way to the Mandalay Bay hotel worker who handled her job of greeting attendees, guiding them to the right rooms, and opening doors for them with extreme diligence.

I am always grateful for people who do their jobs extremely well, no matter the task. Whether I encounter them in my professional role or while on personal business, people who care about their work are truly something to be thankful for.

It is also nice to share the good fortune of being part of a community of workers’ comp professionals who care about their work, their colleagues, and the industry’s improvement.

Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

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