I must admit that the last couple weeks have been a whirlwind. When I published an article entitled “Who Will Lead the National Conversation on Workers’ Compensation?” just over two weeks ago, I had no idea I would be announcing today that the “Conversation” is about to begin. But that is just what has happened, and I am pleased to announce that the “2016 Workers' Compensation Summit” has been scheduled for early May.

Approximately 45 people – industry leaders – including regulators, judges, lawyers, employers, carriers, TPA's, unions, medical professionals, analysts, consultants and rehabilitative specialists will gather to talk about the future of workers' compensation. In an industry first, at least two of the people at the table will be workers who were seriously injured on the job, and have experienced the workers' compensation system firsthand. I will have the honor of being the moderator for this two-day meeting.

Which is ironic, considering I am the person who usually needs moderating.

This is the description being provided to Summit invitees:

A summit is being called for workers’ compensation leaders in [redacted], on May [redacted], 2016. There has been ample discussion of people’s perspectives of what is right and wrong in modern American workers’ compensation. Various organizations have suggested a “national conversation,” but each organization is at least perceived as representing particular interests. Publisher and spokesperson Bob Wilson mentioned this in a recent blog, following a conversation with a leading regulator. The response to that post led to conversations, and the decision to host this information-gathering meeting. The goal of this meeting is to bring many organizations together through their own selected leaders.

The purpose is not to decide policy or even to make recommendations. The purpose is to brainstorm the issues of modern workers’ compensation. What are the relevant conflicts in perspective regarding how comp is succeeding and where it may have shortcomings. The ultimate goal is that this meeting will produce a list of those perceptions, a framework or outline of perceptions. This framework would then be available to all organizations, companies, entities and individuals to use as a guide in conducting their own ongoing conversations about workers’ compensation over the coming months.

It is hoped that through this effort, a multitude of discussions are held throughout the country. There is a potential that some similar group may later reconvene to discuss the results of various conversations. Ultimately, some group might conclude this conversation with comprehensive and objective recommendations for state workers’ compensation programs. The end-point or conclusion is something that could be discussed in May, should the attendees so desire.

The meeting location and specific dates, as you may have noticed, are not being announced in advance. Prior to the meeting very little will be disclosed, but the intent is to fully publish the groups attendance, findings and discussions shortly after the Summit concludes. We are going to be open with the results, while attempting to establish a comfortable, private environment where participants can turn off their cell phones, roll up their sleeves and delve deeply into the issues that face our industry. This needs to be a frank and open discussion among the participants. There will be two bloggers other than myself in attendance, and we will be free to write about the meeting after it is over. However, we will insist that no specific quotes be attributed to any attendee. That anonymity must be assured in order to encourage unrestricted dialogue.

The people involved in this felt that the time was right for an industry led dialogue and coalition, and the response has been extremely encouraging. We have commitments from numerous groups that represent a variety of players in the comp arena. 

It turns out if you schedule it, they really will come.

As our summit description indicated, this “conversation” will not be the end result, but rather the beginning to a greater dialogue. Our hope is that other organizations will take from our discussions and build on those ideas, with the goal of identifying and correcting flaws within our various workers' compensation systems. Indeed, the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) tells me they have an interest in leading a national discussion for the industry over the course of this next year. The first session will be at their Spring Forum in Santa Fe this April, and they will also be participating in the summit. That is just the type of activity we are hoping to see from this.

So, the conversation is on, and a gathering of industry leaders is going to occur. There are many challenges facing our industry, but we have the skill and knowledge to take them on directly. There is much to do, but it will start with a simple conversation.

And that will give us all something to talk about. Frankly, I could not be more pleased.

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