When it comes to conference Tchotchke, the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) has ratcheted up the standards this week at their 2014 Spring Forum in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Regular conference attendees will be very familiar with the “conference bag”; that item you get at check in containing a couple dead trees worth of literature, as well as pens and other sundry items that will never fit in your carry on luggage for the return trip home. As I checked in yesterday afternoon at the registration desk, I was impressed with the sheer heft of the bag I was given. I wondered what they could possibly have in there that would give it such a solid feel.

Now, it is considered impolite to scavenge through a conference bag in front of the people who presented it to you, so I nonchalantly walked off, and once out of sight, scurried back to my hotel room to check out my “score”. In it I found the prerequisite quantity of dead tree material, a pen, and finally, a potato. 

A potato.


Pretty clever, actually. I will tell you, this is Idaho, and my Solanum tuberosum is one impressive specimen worthy of the locale. An example of state spuddery to be truly admired. The entire notion of “state specific food staple branding” is a game changer for these conference locations, that is clear. I am headed to Philadelphia from here Friday for the Annual Kids' Chance National Conference this weekend. I don't know if they have conference bags, but now anything included short of a Philly Cheese Steak will be almost disappointing. 

The Spring Forum is in full swing here as meetings and conference sessions started Monday, and will run through Thursday. I’d like to tell you that they’ve covered groundbreaking territory so far, but the truth is I don’t have a clue.

As noted, I just got here Tuesday afternoon. I can tell you from the program that medical costs, pharmaceuticals and marijuana are big topics this year, which should be no surprise to anyone in the industry.

The IAIABC events are much different than most I attend, because these are largely comprised of working committees that represent both regulators, agencies and private companies that serve the industry. I serve on two such committees, the Research and Standards Committee and the Disability Management and Return to Work Committee. It is a chance for all players to flesh out differences and challenges, and work toward a common solution on problems of our day.

I should add that I enjoy these meetings as they give me the opportunity to be more than an “online” blowhard spewing uninformed opinions and criticisms. I get to do that in person here. I also get to kvetch and moan. It's awesome.

In all seriousness, this is a great place to have real input into process and change for the workers’ comp industry. The regulators are highly approachable here, and the IAIABC presents a truly collaborative environment for multiple players to provide feedback with which to make a difference. The Disability Management and Return to Work group, Chaired by Saskatchewan WCB CEO Peter Federko, is a great group with passion for the subject. I hope we can make strides towards some of the key policies and ideas that the nation needs to improve workers' comp on that front.

I will be writing about what goes on here, and look forward to describing any kvetching I may end up doing.

Unfortunately for my prize potato, I have 5 days worth of clothes and a suit wedged into my carry on luggage, and there is just no room to take it home. I'll probably leave it as a tip for the maid. 

I bet they get that a lot.

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