For This Workers’ Comp Power Broker, It’s All About Education

Pritchard and Jerden’s Steve Heinen has dedicated his career to learning about and improving the workers' comp industry.
By: | April 27, 2020

There’s no denying that Pritchard and Jerden’s Steve Heinen is an impressive workers’ compensation broker. Over the course of his career, he estimates that he’s been involved in over 150,000 workers’ compensation claims, and each of them have taught him something new. 

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As a broker, he helped his client The Elberton Granite Association, a 68-member self-insurance group fund where each member is a qualified self-insured with the state board, receive a historically low loss ratio. 

He also helped the once-struggling fund incorporate a captive to reinsure the layer under the program’s excess $750K limit. This new structure gave the fund tax advantages that allowed them to increase their surplus and earned Heinen the distinction of being named a 2020 Power Broker®.   

“I get up early every day fired up,” Heinen said. “It’s not just about selling policies, it’s about truly making a difference with these employers.” 

Heinen isn’t just a successful broker, however. He’s also an author and educator who has dedicated his career to improving the workers’ compensation sector.

In his 35 years in the industry, he created Georgia’s Certified Workers’ Compensation Professional (CWCP) program, wrote a book on workers’ compensation for employers and started his own risk management consulting company.  

From Underwriter to Educator 

Heinen began his insurance career as a package underwriter for The Hartford. Like many in the industry, he never expected to be working in workers’ compensation.   

Steve Heinen, vice president
Pritchard and Jerden

“Back in the day, worker’s comp was handled on the other side of the building,” Heinen said. “When I came on the brokers’ side, I knew nothing about workers’ comp.”

Even though he started out knowing little about the space, Heinen was determined to master the industry.

To help him learn more and become comfortable with the environment, his mentor and former boss helped him join the commercial lines committee at their state agent’s association. The committee is very involved with Georgia’s state workers’ compensation board and the Georgia Insurance Department. 

“What I quickly learned was, we focused too much of our industry on claims management. There are so many things that happen before the claim happens that impact the cost of claims.” — Steve Heinen, vice president, Pritchard and Jerden

“The people on the committee were very old school. I was the only one without a CPCU,” he said. “What I did to prepare for the meetings every quarter was dive in and learn everything I could about workers’ comp.”

Heinen learned quickly and went on to chair the committee for 15 years. 

“It forced me to lean into workers’ comp, because I knew nothing about it, and as I leaned into it, and I had this epiphany that this was the area of insurance that I could have the most influence on,” he said.

“I became a line of coverage expert early in my career, and I focused almost exclusively on workers’ comp.” 

Heinen’s love of learning led him to create Georgia’s CWCP program in 1999. The program runs courses that allow people to get their workers’ comp adjuster licenses in the state. He’s been teaching these classes for 21 years and recently finished teaching his 100th class with the program.  

“When I was asked in 1999 to lead the claims training initiative for the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation, my first thought was why me?  I am a broker. What I realized is they wanted someone who would think outside the box. I think the program’s success over the last 21 years has been because I constantly try and improve the training,” he said. 

“We had about 60 companies in the pilot program. The charge from the state board was that they wanted credentialing and a certification program for adjusters.

“I sort of had a blank slate to teach it the way I wanted to teach it. We brought folks in, and we spent a day in the Galleria in Atlanta, and we talked about what the program should look like, and we came back six months later and had our first class based on their feedback,” he continued. 

Even in his role as an educator, Heinen feels like a student due to the method he uses for teaching his classes.

“We have over 200 employers, insurers and third party administrators participate in the program, so collectively we have a lot of knowledge capital in the CWCP program,” he said. “So I often tell myself it is the best teaching gig because I learn way more than I teach.” 

Protecting Employees from Pre-Hire to Post-Injury

By 2002, Heinen had seen how many workers’ compensation claims and programs were managed. He started to think about ways the industry could improve.   

“When I started the CWCP program, I quickly learned that we focus too much of our time on claims management,” Heinen said. “There’s so many things that happen before the claim happens that impact the cost of claims.”

This realization led him to write The Work Comp Playbook for Employers: A Proven Strategy to Reduce Cost, a book for employers that suggests they approach claims by focusing on workplace safety.

In his book, Heinen breaks down the process of workers’ compensation into 4 P’s: pre-hire, post-offer, prevention and post-claim. They then looked at how each category affects workers’ compensation claims in order to holistically evaluate the system. 

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“What I hope I’m doing is creating more accountability. When you create more accountability in the workplace, you have less claims,” he said.

“Shifting employers to promote safety among their employees gets me fired up every day because I see it working. Ultimately, it lowers their costs, which is great, but it also means less people are getting hurt.” 

It’s that focus on the injured worker that has kept Heinen in the industry for so long.

“Cyber insurance is about IT, property insurance is about the building, and liability insurance is about the product you sell,” he said. “But workers’ comp is about the people you hire.” &

Courtney DuChene is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Scenario

The Betrayal of Elizabeth

In this Risk Scenario, Risk & Insurance explores what might happen in the event a telemedicine or similar home health visit violates a patient's privacy. What consequences await when a young girl's tele visit goes viral?
By: | October 12, 2020
Risk Scenarios are created by Risk & Insurance editors along with leading industry partners. The hypothetical, yet realistic stories, showcase emerging risks that can result in significant losses if not properly addressed.

Disclaimer: The events depicted in this scenario are fictitious. Any similarity to any corporation or person, living or dead, is merely coincidental.

PART ONE: CRACKS IN THE FOUNDATION

Elizabeth Cunningham seemingly had it all. The daughter of two well-established professionals — her father was a personal injury attorney, her mother, also an attorney, had her own estate planning practice — she grew up in a house in Maryland horse country with lots of love and the financial security that can iron out at least some of life’s problems.

Tall, good-looking and talented, Elizabeth was moving through her junior year at the University of Pennsylvania in seemingly good order; check that, very good order, by all appearances.

Her pre-med grades were outstanding. Despite the heavy load of her course work, she’d even managed to place in the Penn Relays in the mile, in the spring of her sophomore season, in May of 2019.

But the winter of 2019/2020 brought challenges, challenges that festered below the surface, known only to her and a couple of close friends.

First came betrayal at the hands of her boyfriend, Tom, right around Thanksgiving. She saw a message pop up on his phone from Rebecca, a young woman she thought was their friend. As it turned out, Rebecca and Tom had been intimate together, and both seemed game to do it again.

Reeling, her holiday mood shattered and her relationship with Tom fractured, Elizabeth was beset by deep feelings of anxiety. As the winter gray became more dense and forbidding, the anxiety grew.

Fed up, she broke up with Tom just after Christmas. What looked like a promising start to 2020 now didn’t feel as joyous.

Right around the end of the year, she plucked a copy of her father’s New York Times from the table in his study. A budding physician, her eyes were drawn to a piece about an outbreak of a highly contagious virus in Wuhan, China.

“Sounds dreadful,” she said to herself.

Within three months, anxiety gnawed at Elizabeth daily as she sat cloistered in her family’s house in Bel Air, Maryland.

It didn’t help matters that her brother, Billy, a high school senior and a constant thorn in her side, was cloistered with her.

She felt like she was suffocating.

One night in early May, feeling shutdown and unable to bring herself to tell her parents about her true condition, Elizabeth reached out to her family physician for help.

Dr. Johnson had been Elizabeth’s doctor for a number of years and, being from a small town, Elizabeth had grown up and gone to school with Dr. Johnson’s son Evan. In fact, back in high school, Evan had asked Elizabeth out once. Not interested, Elizabeth had declined Evan’s advances and did not give this a second thought.

Dr. Johnson’s practice had recently been acquired by a Virginia-based hospital system, Medwell, so when Elizabeth called the office, she was first patched through to Medwell’s receptionist/scheduling service. Within 30 minutes, an online Telehealth consult had been arranged for her to speak directly with Dr. Johnson.

Due to the pandemic, Dr. Johnson called from the office in her home. The doctor was kind. She was practiced.

“So can you tell me what’s going on?” she said.

Elizabeth took a deep breath. She tried to fight what was happening. But she could not. Tears started streaming down her face.

“It’s just… It’s just…” she managed to stammer.

The doctor waited patiently. “It’s okay,” she said. “Just take your time.”

Elizabeth took a deep breath. “It’s like I can’t manage my own mind anymore. It’s nonstop. It won’t turn off…”

More tears streamed down her face.

Patiently, with compassion, the doctor walked Elizabeth through what she might be experiencing. The doctor recommended a follow-up with Medwell’s psychology department.

“Okay,” Elizabeth said, some semblance of relief passing through her.

Unbeknownst to Dr. Johnson, her office door had not been completely closed. During the telehealth call, Evan stopped by his mother’s office to ask her a question. Before knocking he overheard Elizabeth talking and decided to listen in.

PART TWO: BETRAYAL

As Elizabeth was finding the courage to open up to Dr. Johnson about her psychological condition, Evan was recording her with his smartphone through a crack in the doorway.

Spurred by who knows what — his attraction to her, his irritation at being rejected, the idleness of the COVID quarantine — it really didn’t matter. Evan posted his recording of Elizabeth to his Instagram feed.

#CantManageMyMind, #CrazyGirl, #HelpMeDoctorImBeautiful is just some of what followed.

Elizabeth and Evan were both well-liked and very well connected on social media. The posts, shares and reactions that followed Evan’s digital betrayal numbered in the hundreds. Each one of them a knife into the already troubled soul of Elizabeth Cunningham.

By noon of the following day, her well-connected father unleashed the dogs of war.

Rand Davis, the risk manager for the Medwell Health System, a 15-hospital health care company based in Alexandria, Virginia was just finishing lunch when he got a call from the company’s general counsel, Emily Vittorio.

“Yes?” Rand said. He and Emily were accustomed to being quick and blunt with each other. They didn’t have time for much else.

“I just picked up a notice of intent to sue from a personal injury attorney in Bel Air, Maryland. It seems his daughter was in a teleconference with one of our docs. She was experiencing anxiety, the daughter that is. The doctor’s son recorded the call and posted it to social media.”

“Great. Thanks, kid,” Rand said.

“His attorneys want to initiate a discovery dialogue on Monday,” Emily said.

It was Thursday. Rand’s dreams of slipping onto his fishing boat over the weekend evaporated, just like that. He closed his eyes and tilted his face up to the heavens.

Wasn’t it enough that he and the other members of the C-suite fought tooth and nail to keep thousands of people safe and treat them during the COVID-crisis?

He’d watched the explosion in the use of telemedicine with a mixture of awe and alarm. On the one hand, they were saving lives. On the other hand, they were opening themselves to exposures under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. He just knew it.

He and his colleagues tried to do the right thing. But what they were doing, overwhelmed as they were, was simply not enough.

PART THREE: FALLING DOMINOES

Within the space of two weeks, the torture suffered by Elizabeth Cunningham grew into a class action against Medwell.

In addition to the violation of her privacy, the investigation by Mr. Cunningham’s attorneys revealed the following:

Medwell’s telemedicine component, as needed and well-intended as it was, lacked a viable informed consent protocol.

The consultation with Elizabeth, and as it turned out, hundreds of additional patients in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, violated telemedicine regulations in all three states.

Numerous practitioners in the system took part in teleconferences with patients in states in which they were not credentialed to provide that service.

Even if Evan hadn’t cracked open Dr. Johnson’s door and surreptitiously recorded her conversation with Elizabeth, the Medwell telehealth system was found to be insecure — yet another violation of HIPAA.

The amount sought in the class action was $100 million. In an era of social inflation, with jury awards that were once unthinkable becoming commonplace, Medwell was standing squarely in the crosshairs of a liability jury decision that was going to devour entire towers of its insurance program.

Adding another layer of certain pain to the equation was that the case would be heard in Baltimore, a jurisdiction where plaintiffs’ attorneys tended to dance out of courtrooms with millions in their pockets.

That fall, Rand sat with his broker on a call with a specialty insurer, talking about renewals of the group’s general liability, cyber and professional liability programs.

“Yeah, we were kind of hoping to keep the increases on all three at less than 25%,” the broker said breezily.

There was a long silence from the underwriters at the other end of the phone.

“To be honest, we’re borderline about being able to offer you any cover at all,” one of the lead underwriters said.

Rand just sat silently and waited for another shoe to drop.

“Well, what can you do?” the broker said, with hope draining from his voice.

The conversation that followed would propel Rand and his broker on the difficult, next to impossible path of trying to find coverage, with general liability underwriters in full retreat, professional liability underwriters looking for double digit increases and cyber underwriters asking very pointed questions about the health system’s risk management.

Elizabeth, a strong young woman with a good support network, would eventually recover from the damage done to her.

Medwell’s relationships with the insurance markets looked like it almost never would. &

Bar-Lessons-Learned---Partner's-Content-V1b

Risk & Insurance® partnered with Allied World to produce this scenario. Below are Allied World’s recommendations on how to prevent the losses presented in the scenario. This perspective is not an editorial opinion of Risk & Insurance.®.

The use of telehealth has exponentially accelerated with the advent of COVID-19. Few health care providers were prepared for this shift. Health care organizations should confirm that Telehealth coverage is included in their Medical Professional, General Liability and Cyber policies, and to what extent. Concerns around Telehealth focus on HIPAA compliance and the internal policies in place to meet the federal and state standards and best practices for privacy and quality care. As states open businesses and the crisis abates, will pre-COVID-19 telehealth policies and regulations once again be enforced?

Risk Management Considerations:

The same ethical and standard of care issues around caring for patients face-to-face in an office apply in telehealth settings:

  • maintain a strong patient-physician relationship;
  • protect patient privacy; and
  • seek the best possible outcome.

Telehealth can create challenges around “informed consent.” It is critical to inform patients of the potential benefits and risks of telehealth (including privacy and security), ensure the use of HIPAA compliant platforms and make sure there is a good level of understanding of the scope of telehealth. Providers must be aware of the regulatory and licensure requirements in the state where the patient is located, as well as those of the state in which they are licensed.

A professional and private environment should be maintained for patient privacy and confidentiality. Best practices must be in place and followed. Medical professionals who engage in telehealth should be fully trained in operating the technology. Patients must also be instructed in its use and provided instructions on what to do if there are technical difficulties.

This case study is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to be a summary of, and does not in any way vary, the actual coverage available to a policyholder under any insurance policy. Actual coverage for specific claims will be determined by the actual policy language and will be based on the specific facts and circumstances of the claim. Consult your insurance advisors or legal counsel for guidance on your organization’s policies and coverage matters and other issues specific to your organization.

This information is provided as a general overview for agents and brokers. Coverage will be underwritten by an insurance subsidiary of Allied World Assurance Company Holdings, Ltd, a Fairfax company (“Allied World”). Such subsidiaries currently carry an A.M. Best rating of “A” (Excellent), a Moody’s rating of “A3” (Good) and a Standard & Poor’s rating of “A-” (Strong), as applicable. Coverage is offered only through licensed agents and brokers. Actual coverage may vary and is subject to policy language as issued. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions. Risk management services are provided or arranged through AWAC Services Company, a member company of Allied World. © 2020 Allied World Assurance Company Holdings, Ltd. All rights reserved.




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