Welcome to the first WorkCompRecap! This is my personal attempt to stay better connected to the thought leadership of the work comp industry. Each week I will post a brief contribution from several thought leaders. I have challenged contributors to keep posts short so this should be a quick read. I’ll rotate contributors so each week will highlight different opinions and topics. Comments and suggestions are welcome!

Bill Zachry – Twitter @wzachry Gap for Public Safety Officers. Many states have created presumptions of compensability for public safety officers. (California includes cancers and hernias, cancers and heart conditions). There is usually no science behind this. Evidence-based causation would find most of these conditions not compensable. Most public safety officers are already getting lifetime care through their benefits so it is actually only the PD which is added if one were to take a high level view on this. The problem with this is that it results in public safety officers getting benefits through the WC system and others not getting anything for the same injuries and conditions. So the Judges tend to find compensability when there is actually no presumption. The real problem is that most public safety officers can no longer be out on the streets chasing bad guys and carrying folks out of burning buildings when they get between 45 and 50 years of age then they attempt to use the WC system as a bridge to retirement (or they go out on disability). Our society has a problem of what to do with public safety officers from the gap of between 45 and 65 years of age. Using WC is not a good solution for this problem. An alternative Dispute Resolution with a single payer process for public safety officers is probably a good way to go but it would take a bit of work.

David Langham – Twitter @FLJCC Someone Has to Pay. There are a great many who choose not to recognize that injury or dysfunction is an eventuality in society. There will be those who are unable, or at least believe themselves unable, to maintain or regain employment following an injury. That will not be changed by workers’ compensation laws or reforms; the laws only decide who will pay the cost of that dysfunction, as among the worker, the employer, an indemnitor, or society at large. The dysfunction may be physical or emotional, primary (injury) or secondary (treatment such as opioids). In some part, the burden sometimes seems to trend toward society, as indemitors raise rates, employers raise prices, or governments raise taxes. An appreciation that someone must pay is a good starting point to further discussions.

Chikita Mann – Twitter @iamChikitaBMann Medicaid Work Requirement: is WC Ready? Typically, in the past, the workers compensation arena has not given much attention to laws related to Medicare and Medicaid. However, we need to start paying closer attention, especially since there are several states who are proposing mandatory and/or voluntary work requirement as part of their Medicaid programs. These work requirements will increase the number of individuals with disabilities and mature adults (aged 55 and older) attempting to enter or re-enter the workforce. This brings several points for consideration. First, individuals with disabilities and older adults are two subcultures within the American society who already face challenges with ageism and discrimination. Secondly, for those who live in a state that does not offer vocational assistance, who will bear the responsibility of vocational training? Is it reasonable to expect the Medicaid recipient to find a way to pay for this training when they can barely pay for their necessities? Lastly, these two populations are known for having at least one co-morbidity. If they are injured on the job, their co-morbidity would prolong their recovery from their work-related injury which means higher claims costs. Overall – is the workforce versatile enough to accommodate this?

Stuart Colburn – no Twitter – Alternate Labor Pools and Their Challenges In the long run, the workers compensation community will have to address the declining industry model as injury and severity rates decline. Some argue that automation will remove too many good paying blue collar jobs. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will affect many white collar jobs. Some governments and thought leaders are proposing a basic wage or income to combat these expected problems. But we face a different problem today. My friend and editor, Robin Kobayashi, sent me an excellent New York Times article addressing a very different short term problem: many employers can’t find enough workers and are using alternate means of increasing their pool of potential workers. Workers compensation is tied to employment in many ways. Most think of premiums: more workers means upward pressure on premiums. But new workers are more prone to injury. Hiring older workers, workers with disabilities, or workers with pre-existing injuries have their own unique challenges. An economy near full employment is a positive development for this country. But it also introduces some challenges for employers and carriers alike.

Melissa Steger – no Twitter – Higher Education Risk Management Conference (HERM) The HERM Conference morphed over time from a UT System-specific conference to a national risk management conference offered every two years. The 2016 conference hosted nearly 500 attendees from 65 different universities and public entities across 22 different states. The 2018 Higher Education Risk Management Conference will be held from March 25th through March 28th at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort in Lost Pines, Texas. The conference offers comprehensive educational opportunities for professionals working in the areas of risk finance and insurance, compliance, information security, environmental health and safety, emergency management legal affairs, law enforcement, international travel, human resources, and workers’ compensation insurance. What work comp professionals can expect:

  • Not on My Watch: Employer Vulnerabilities in the WC System
  • Occupational Health and Safety Programs: Promoting Value, Impact, and Return on Investments
  • Beyond Checklists: Managing the Death of an Employee
  • Grab that Dough: Subrogation – How to Identify & Pursue 3rd Party Claims
  • Creating an Effective Ergonomics Program

Finally, Stuart Colburn, with Down Stanford, Julie Saucedo with CCMSI, and I are developing a mock trial session highlighting relevant industry issues and tips to managing the outcome. Although we are still in the development stage, I’m certain this session will have you sitting on the edge of your seats. If you’re interested in attending or just want to learn more about the event.

Mark Pew @RxProfessor Nikki Sixx Shares His Addiction Story. One of the things I’ve noticed is that people in recovery (daily) from substance use disorder (i.e. addiction) want to (1) share their story (2) help others not yet in recovery. So many people working in recovery programs are themselves in recovery, the ultimate “pay it forward.” If you remember Mötley Crüe then you remember Nikki Sixx. He, like many other rockers over several decades, got caught up in a lifestyle that destroyed careers and families, and often resulted in premature death. In fact, “for two minutes in 1987 I was pronounced clinically dead from an overdose.” His way of helping is talking about his own story and giving a platform for others to tell their stories. If you want to read some sad – but ultimately overcoming – stories go to his “Heroin Diaries Heat Map“. Whether you like him or his music or not, you can’t impugn the fact that he has credibility when talking about the dangers of opioids (for him, heroin). And, sometimes, the only person that people in those scenarios will listen to are those that have been there. His point? Addiction can be overcome. His idea? Speak up. Hat tip to Tammy Boyd for sharing this article.

Thank you for reading. Would you like to contribute? Please message me your idea. Have a great weekend! #workcomp #workerscomp #workcomprecap