Naples, FL  – To be fair, Darrell Brown was not "on" medical marijuana at the session he presented  yesterday at the Florida RIMS Educational Conference, but the topic was surely on his mind. Brown, Director of Claims at Sedgwick CMS, covered a variety of issues and challenges related to claims management during what I consider to be the most entertaining session thus far at the conference.

 Medical Marijuana poses a very unique challenge for claims managers in workers comp. Brown discussed the handful of states that have now provided for legal medical marijuana, but also pointed out that no state has specifically incorporated that language legislatively for workers’ comp. However, it is just a matter of time before that door is opened, and insurers may soon find themselves covering the cost of this treatment for a variety of comp claims.

 The most interesting part of this discussion was the potential impact on employers policies and procedures, long before a claim was encountered. How would the use of Medical Marijuana impact current safety and drug testing policies? Do employers need to accommodate those workers on this medicine? (My suggestion they be assigned to the kitchen to bake brownies for the break room was not particularly well received) 

 And perhaps most frightening of all – what happens when co-workers realize that an insurance company or employer is paying for an injured workers marijuana?

 As Brown indicated, there are currently not many clear answers, but clearly the challenge for claims people is on the immediate horizon. People managing claims in states providing for medical marijuana need to be prepared to confront and manage this issue.

 The session provided by Brown was entitled "Fundamentals of Claims Management", and he did cover a variety of topics beyond his self described "favorite topic" of medical marijuana. He discussed medical cost containment, litigation management and other traditional claims topics, but another unique area he touched on was the Gen Y phenomena.

 Gen Y, loosely defined as those born in the early to mid eighties and beyond, are the "net generation", and the first to enter the workforce fully tech aware. Darrell Brown made an excellent observation in that this generation communicates much differently than those of us who precede them. In a world where direct communication is key to properly managing claims, dealing with people who prefer text over telephone is an enormous challenge.

Some of the employers in the session agreed that this group presents new obstacles even in the absence of claims. One person in the room lamented that their Gen Y employees, although required to actually call in if they cannot work, insist on "texting in sick" to their managers instead. Personally, I have a solution to this, called the "Texted Termination" (Dude – U R fired.  ROFLMAO), but I will reserve that for another discussion.

 Brown challenged the attendees to think of ways to effectively counter this trend. One suggestion, given somewhat humorously, was that adjusters could text the claimant asking for a Skype video call. While possibly intended to be funny, it was a very creative suggestion, employing current technologies to address an important issue. However, Brown indicated that Gen Y claimants would likely eventually call when they realize no check is forthcoming, but his point, that early discussions and conversations in the initial investigation are critical, was not lost on the attendees.

Overall, I came away from this session thinking about some new potential obstacles for our industry, and that is the sign of a successful presentation. The Florida RIMS conference, currently being held in Naples, FL through Saturday is certainly living up to it’s excellent representation. Darrell Browns session on Claims Management Fundamentals was definitely a positive addition.


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