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The following blog article is published with the permission of guest blogger, Brian Francis.
Dateline: NEW ORLEANS- A few blocks from the commotion of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street, just outside the French Quarter, a group of one hundred and fifty worker’s compensation professionals recently met at the Roosevelt Hotel to discuss trends and issues affecting the worker’s compensation system.
In contrast to the noise and distractions of the French Quarter, the tempo in the conference room was focused deliberation. The conversations were important because in the end they affect the delivery of health care to injured employees throughout the United States. Conversely, from a business perspective, the exchanges have an impact on the financial health of employers, insurers and self-insurers.
The American Bar Association’s (ABA) mid-winter worker’s compensation meeting is the high water mark for issues concerning claims and litigation. The event, which is sponsored by the ABA’s Labor & Employment Law Section (LEL), and the Tort & Insurance Practice Section (TIPS), is a two-day thought-provoking conference. The program brings together a multi-jurisdictional cross section of plaintiff and defense bar members, judges and magistrates, insurance regulators, workers’ compensation insurance executives, self-insurers, reinsurers and physicians and medical professionals.
The majority of seasoned insurance executives in attendance were able to recall when “workman’s” compensation (comp) was a fairly predictable and profitable line of insurance coverage. Comp possessed ideally insurable attributes such as foreseeable loss expectancy and a few core statutory issues affecting compensability. Together, these made “work comp” a stable, and at times, profitable line of insurance coverage.
Today, there is no shortage of critical issues creating volatility and obscured predictability. The once profitable line of coverage faces a myriad of complex issues such as: evidenced-based medicine, attacks on the exclusive remedy doctrine, an aging workforce, medical fee schedules, home-based employment, professional employment organizations, natural disasters, terrorism and the aggregation of losses, undocumented workers, nanotechnology, ADA and FMLA regulations, Medicare Set-Asides, obesity and co-morbidity issues, social media, RICO violations, the Federalization of Workers’ Compensation, Opt-in and Opt-Out ERISA plans and claims of bad faith conduct; so much for predictability and profitability.
While two days of meetings are insufficient to address all of these issues, the panel-format presentations were well-composed, articulate and balanced. Panels discussed topics such as: the loss mitigation of high value claims, the management of psychological injuries, compound drug use, effective claim management, social media and claimant credibility. Presentations were composed of the views of a cross-section of defense/insurer, plaintiff/employee and union/employer perspectives.
For those followers of the FN&H Alabama Workers’ Comp Blawg, both Counsel Mike Fish and Joshua Holden contributed to the ABA meeting. Josh Holden’s presentation addressed issues pertaining to Social Media uses and their associated pitfalls, while Mike Fish was a participant in a lightning round presentation of 60 Legal Tips in 60 minutes.
The ABA does not restrict its membership to attorneys. Associate memberships are available to any and all non-attorney specialist in the area of Workers’ Compensation. Membership should be attractive to those insurance professionals charged with the profitability of a workers’ compensation program. Whether your corporate role is chief underwriter, home office or regional claims manager, or self-insured program manager, I’m confident that either of the ABA committees (LEL or TIPS) would welcome your expertise and participation. To learn more about membership or associate membership visit: www.americanbar.org and click on the “join or renew tab. For question about the ABA contact Mike Fish or Joshua Holden at 205 332 3430.
Guest blogger, Brian Francis, is a Principal and Manager in a Michigan based third party administrator.