Column: Workers' Comp

Integration Ramps Up

By: | May 6, 2015 • 2 min read
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.

Employer interest in grouping the management of workers’ compensation, nonoccupational disability and employee absence is spreading. The Affordable Care Act, amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act, employee leave mandates and employer cost-reduction measures are all factors driving the trend.

Some larger employers with more ample risk management resources realized years ago the value of viewing employee health and wellness, disability management and claims administration through one lens.

These trendsetters understood that they faced productivity losses and increased health care costs when employees are ill or absent, regardless of whether the cause is a work-related injury, a nonoccupational disability or the need to care for family members.

They were also quicker to garner synergies by collaboratively administering some programs traditionally handled by human resources or risk management departments.

Now we’re seeing brokers that traditionally provided property/casualty services competing with benefits service consultants to advise clients looking to improve employee health and wellness.

But now a trend to comprehensively evaluate the management of short- and long-term disability offerings, workers’ comp, Family and Medical Leave Act, and ADA compliance is spreading among middle-market employers as well.

They are growing increasingly interested in managing employee absences and medical costs — no matter if the cause is rooted in workers’ comp claims, nonoccupational disabilities, or leave laws like the FMLA.

Recognizing the trend, brokers, third-party administrators and insurers are now offering products and services to middle market employers that want to link management of these areas.

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Now we’re seeing brokers that traditionally provided property/casualty services competing with benefits service consultants to advise clients looking to improve employee health and wellness.

As those employers move forward to further health and wellness goals they are asking how they might incorporate their workers’ comp program and claims management strategies.

Overall, though, many employers still manage occupational and nonoccupational disabilities in silos.

Thus, they miss opportunities to identify employees at risk for future lost work time.

It’s common for some claimants to cross over, utilizing both occupational and nonoccupational disability systems, according to a February 2015 report from the Integrated Benefits Institute.

IBI President Thomas Parry said he sees more employers now sharing information across the silos, rather than creating a single organizational unit to manage everything.

Broad-based and well-publicized federal regulatory change is spurring the practice of shared management or shared information.

The Affordable Care Act is designed to promote opportunities to gain from wellness and prevention initiatives that impact injury and illness, whether the cause is occupational or not.

Similarly, increased ADA, FMLA and other leave and accommodation law mandates cut across both areas.

And during the recession, many employers cut their risk or disability staffs and now need practices for efficiently managing claims using less human resources.

Those that underwrite their risks and consult on them have taken notice.

 

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.

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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.

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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]