This Retailer Cut Workers’ Comp Costs By 41 Percent With One Simple Method

When an athlete is injured, trainers rush in and assist the player to the bench for treatment. A large chain of discount stores, 99 Cents Only, implemented the same model for workplace injuries.
By: | October 17, 2018 • 3 min read

When an athlete is injured, trainers rush in, make an assessment and assist the player to the bench for treatment.

A large chain of discount stores in the Southwest, 99 Cents Only, implemented the same model for workplace injuries. The pilot program has been highly successful, with a 41-percent reduction in lost-time claims in the first 12 months. The program has also accelerated employees’ return to work and has reduced insurance costs.

On-Site Triage for Injured Workers

“The idea was brought to us by our brokerage, Beecher Carlson,” said Alvina Garcia, senior manager of workers’ compensation and safety at 99 Cents Only.

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The company has almost 400 stores, primarily in California, but also Arizona, Nevada and Texas. Each store has about 30 to 40 employees, and like most employers, the company was struggling with rising claims and costs and lingering cases. In particular, Garcia cited the delays in initial treatments, further delays for specialists if needed and the lack of continuity in case management.

The pilot project, using the sports-trainer model, opened in September 2017 with two clinics in stores where there had been high occurrences of injuries. Clinicians were able to triage injuries immediately, and the company used a ride-hailing service to get injured workers to treatment quickly.

“We have seen great success,” said Garcia.

“Most workers are glad to get the immediate care, referrals, and transportation. The clinicians stay on top of the treatment plan and act like a second adjuster on the file. They also assist employees on light duty as they come back to work.” — Alvina Garcia, senior manager of workers’ compensation and safety, 99 Cents Only

“We have expedited referrals to the best providers and reduced lag time of referrals from seven days to one day or less. The clinics also provide the opportunity for employees to pop in any time for guidance on ergonomics, especially lifting.”

After a full year of the pilot project, a third, larger clinic is being installed at one of the California distribution centers. It will serve all three, as well as 33 retail stores in the immediate area. To be sure, there are costs to build and staff the facilities, but Garcia stated emphatically “those costs are significantly less than what our workers’ comp costs had been.”

The company is self insured but as a result of the program has been able to reduce the bonds that it has to post with the state.

Workers Benefit as Well

“Our clinicians give employees better care,” said Garcia. “That is far better than what they were getting at third-party occupational health clinics. They get personal attention to themselves and to their progress plan.”

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Clinicians are also gathering insight and data on injuries and are in the process of compiling recommendations for management on ways to reduce injuries and improve work practices.

Like most companies, 99 Cents Only sees the majority of injured workers eager to get better and get back to work, but invariably there is the occasional malingerer.

“We have seen it all,” said Garcia. “Most workers are glad to get the immediate care, referrals and transportation. The clinicians stay on top of the treatment plan and act like a second adjuster on the file. They also assist employees on light duty as they come back to work.”

As for those workers who are less diligent, “Our clinicians are very quick to pick up on a situation and investigate if it seems like someone is trying to take advantage.”

The mere presence of the clinics as a resource tends to encourage positive behavior and discourage the negative. &

Gregory DL Morris is an independent business journalist based in New York with 25 years’ experience in industry, energy, finance and transportation. He 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.

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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]