Column: Roger's Soapbox

Capitalism at Its Best

By: | October 1, 2014 • 3 min read

Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

Are some people inherently better than other people? The answer, we now know, is yes indeedy. Take that, equality freaks.

People who are better are not defined that way based on color, creed, nationality, sex, or any other criterion formerly fashionable among the bigoted. The grounds are, instead, the modern equivalents of religion: data and money.


An English newspaper has reported that “consumers who are careful with their personal finances are being offered savings on their car insurance premiums as a result.

Insurance firms have established what they say is a strong link between people who are prudent with their spending and those less likely to take risks while driving.”

“The apparent correlation,” the article continued, “has led firms such as Scottish Widows, Lloyds’ insurance arm, to begin offering discounts of as much as 20 percent on car insurance to certain customers.”

The inherent unfairness of the good having to pay for the bad is the price of freedom.

Your confusion solved: By Lloyds, the newspaper meant Lloyds Banking Group, a large UK-based firm, not Lloyd’s of London. And don’t confuse Scottish Widows, an insurer, with Scottish windows, which have a more transparent outlook.

The prudent make fewer insurance claims, one assumes, because they take fewer risks, or perhaps better understand the risks they do take. They are therefore better people to insure than the profligate.

This may seem somewhat obvious. The prudent carry the profligate throughout their lives.

For years, for example, the prudent have earned little or nothing on their savings so that the profligate can have cheap mortgages. The prudent pay their bills on time and don’t incur debt they cannot carry. With the profligate, anything goes.

We’re all a mix of spenders and savers, except for the most dissolute, who spend everything they can get their hands on and, in many cases, steal, game the system, or borrow from me.

Prudence personified, I resentfully understand the need for the prudent to bail out the reckless.

If the global economic system required everyone to pay for what they use, 89.7165 percent of everyone (approximately) would be unable to make ends meet. They’d whine about it endlessly and eventually riot and set fire to anything and everything.

The inherent unfairness of the good having to pay for the bad is the price of freedom.

I have no children, don’t drive and rarely go out at night. Yet I pay my share of the nation’s education, roads and street lighting bills. The same principle applies to paying for those who can’t manage their money, which, to be fair, is almost everyone.


In our heady world of insurance (which is based entirely on the good carrying the bad), where money is managed to within a millimeter of its existence, we would imagine that everyone’s like us. They’re not.

Some people, most people, are just bad eggs and we, the good hats, carry them like the hapless passengers they are.

This system, as you know, is called capitalism. Its keenest unfairness lies not in the traditional complaint, that some people have little; it lies in the truth of those of us who pay attention to detail being left to subsidize those who don’t.

Being a compassionate Charlie, I wouldn’t have it any other way, except that every now and then I’d appreciate a medal, say, or a small parade in my honor.

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]