Conference Targets Next Steps for Employers

NWCDC leaders discuss what 2014 attendees can look forward to.
By: | March 14, 2014 • 5 min read

ConferenceWith session proposals streaming in, leaders of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo are working diligently to develop the very best program for the 2014 event. They weighed in with their thoughts on the issues most deserving of conference attention.

Denise Gillen-Algire

“I’m really excited about the continuing and increased focus on disability management and integrated disability management,” said Denise Gillen-Algire, principal of Risk Navigation Group. “Employers manage disability for a variety of things, not just workers’ comp — for nonoccupational injuries, say short-term disability or other programs. If you have an integrated approach, it allows synergies you wouldn’t have, you don’t have silos.”


Denise Gillen-Algire, leader, Integrated Health and Productivity Management practice, Risk Navigation Group

With her nursing background and experience as a nurse case manager, Gillen-Algire appreciates the holistic approach to injured workers that is enabled through integrated disability management. Closely tied in with integrated disability management is the idea of Total Worker Health, a strategy that integrates occupational safety and health prevention with health promotion to advance health and well-being among employees.

“It’s looking at integrating occupational health and safety — pre-loss and post-loss and health promotion and a strong focus on well-being,” she said. “You can’t look at a person through a pinhole, you’re looking at the whole person. It’s important to understand how it impacts the effectiveness of productivity and workers’ comp.”

Gillen-Algire says sessions that address IDM and TWH are timely, given the Affordable Care Act’s increased focus on health and benefits. Employers are finding that a focus on IDM can mean an improved bottom line.


“Keep in mind workers’ comp is a big deal to us, but it’s a very small percentage of total spend for employers in terms of health costs,” she said. “What employers are saying is ‘if I ignore this, it affects my health plan costs and productivity for workers.’ There’s definitely an increased focus on integrating those programs and medical management is smack dab in the middle of that.”

Roberto Ceniceros

An emphasis on the needs of employers is the focus of the newest conference team member. “I’m looking to increase the number of employers speaking at the conference — providing information on their specific programs, how they operate their workers’ comp programs within their companies,” said Roberto Ceniceros, senior editor with Risk & Insurance® magazine.

Roberto Ceniceros

Roberto Ceniceros, senior editor, Risk & Insurance® and co-chair, National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference®

For nearly two decades, Ceniceros has written extensively on workers’ comp for a leading industry publication. He has also produced a popular workers’ comp blog and developed a virtual workers’ comp conference to address the many changes taking place in the system.

“The risk has become much more complex,” Ceniceros noted. “At the same time, the vendor community has grown tremendously to help employers address those risks … while that provides a lot of services and help that employers need, it also raises another potential cost issue for employers.”

Additionally, Ceniceros says it requires employers to become adept at managing the service providers as well as the risk. That has raised the expectations of employers attending conferences.

“As the level of risk has grown more complex, the response [of some employers] has grown more sophisticated,” he said. “They are looking for higher quality levels of education.”

Ceniceros said other people are new to the workers’ comp system, having taken on the responsibilities, and are seeking information on system fundamentals.

“I think there is … always a need for knowledge on operating a program, on what employers have done in their particular shops because there are always differences in what employers need,” he said. “Return to work has been around for as long as I know. But there is still always a need to understand how specific employers have put their RTW programs together and what they do day in and day out to make them more effective and efficient.”

Mark Walls

“I’m very excited to see the different proposals we are receiving, which are going to give us a lot of great options to put together a program that will be very educational and beneficial to the attendees,” said Mark Walls, senior vice president of workers’ compensation market research leader at Marsh USA and founder/manager of the WorkCompAnalysis group on LinkedIn.

Mark Walls

Mark Walls, senior vice president, Marsh

“The one thing that is certain in workers’ comp is that there will always be change. It’s constantly evolving and everyone in it has to be sensitive to that and be prepared to evolve with it,” he said. “Things that were best practices 10 years ago are the norm today. Employers are constantly looking to enhance their workers’ comp programs.”

One thing that has not changed is the issue of rising costs, especially medical. With loss ratios above 100 percent reported by many workers’ comp carriers, pricing increases are being seen across the nation.

“As medical costs have been rising, payers are investing heavily in different medical management tools to try to control those with case management, utilization review, medical networks, etc.,” Walls said. “What we are seeing more and more is the need for people to really monitor the ROI on these medical management protocols. Are they actually saving them money and reducing costs, or simply shifting dollars around? It requires a lot of diligence to ensure their medical management programs are delivering better outcomes and savings rather than shifting dollars from one pocket to another.”


Walls is also anxious to see sessions that help employers better manage their data for optimal outcomes. “Analytics and benchmarking have been buzzwords for a number of years, and there’s been a lot of investment by vendors in that type of thing,” Walls said. “What I hear is, ‘it’s nice to have all this data in one place but what do you do with it and what does it tell me?’ So the first step is gathering the data, and the next is analyzing it to determine what it means and come up with an action plan. Data alone is not actionable. It’s not just a matter of having data available, you need to do something with it.”

Nancy Grover is the president of NMG Consulting and the Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

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]