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.

 

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]