This morning finds me in Portland, Oregon, where I have been invited to speak to NCOIL, the National Conference of Insurance Legislators. I will be providing an update on the 2016 Workers’ Compensation Summit and the “National Conversation” it was designed to spark for the workers’ compensation industry. It is a great opportunity, and with the Summit releasing the final Dallas report this past week the timing could not be better. 

There are two critical groups that must be engaged if this process is to have any level of success; the legislators who ultimately pass the laws that define our industry and the regulators who put those laws into action. We’ve already had tremendous interest and input from members of the latter. We have not yet had the opportunity to engage the former. That is what makes the NCOIL invite so fortuitous. We need to involve them in the dialogue.

As many of you likely know, the Summit consisted of 39 attendees, representing multiple segments of our industry. We identified 29 Imperative Issues that require further analysis and action in the ongoing effort to improve workers’ compensation. In the report released this last week, we identified 3 of them as Priority Issues, and grouped all into three “Priority Groups” to help define which issues are of the greatest concern. The three top items, which is where I intend to focus most of my presentation, are:

– Benefit adequacy

– Regulatory complexity

– Delays in treatment even if compensable

In reality, many of our current issues and frictions points can be traced to these 3 primary issues. Some states have severely cut benefits, and as a result are awash in litigation over the constitutionality of their respective systems. Regulatory complexity drives both process costs and frustrations, as well as leading to expensive litigation. And of course, delays in treatment while claims that are ultimately compensable are investigated or appealed drives costs up medically and increases indemnity costs, to say nothing of litigation costs.

As you may have noticed, every issue that dogs workers’ comp seems to be a road that leads to litigation. 

Of the three primary issues noted above, benefit adequacy and regulatory complexity will be the most difficult to address. Constant competitive pressure between states (another lesser issue in and of itself) will keep pressure on legislators in some parts of the country. Regulatory complexity is also it’s own unique beast, and is difficult to address as even the simplest well intended reforms can create new process and regulatory hurdles. The third primary issue, Delays in treatment for compensable claims, is probably the easiest of the three to remedy, particularly for injured workers covered by General health insurance. I’ve already written about Maine Statute 222, which requires general insurers to pay medical and disability for their Insureds pending the determination of compensability of a workers’ comp claim.

That type of requirement in every state would cure many of our issues right out of the gate.  

So, today we begin speaking to legislators in earnest about the Conversation and the needs of the workers’ compensation industry. Wish me luck, as we have a lot to talk about.

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