We’ve been talking a great deal about the “National Conversation” on workers’ compensation of late. Various groups are taking up the responsibility of guiding and contributing to the discussion; from the Workers’ Compensation Summit to the IAIABC, SAWCA, private companies, other interested groups and beyond. It is all an effort to identify and correct deficiencies within the work comp system itself. Sometimes lost in all the shuffle and discussion surrounding that effort is the subtle fear that the Federal Government might in some manner inject itself into our industry.

By most accounts, the prospect of a Federal “intervention” or other type of meddling into our affairs is not viewed positively. Almost any move by the Feds would certainly add regulatory complexity to the process, and positive results could certainly not be guaranteed. The fear that the federal government, in response to negative publicity and Congressional requests, may act in some manner regarding workers’ compensation was a factor in starting the national conversation. The general feeling is that we have much more appropriate skill and knowledge within our community, and could fix our own issues if allowed the opportunity.

There has been one unknown, however, in how aggressive federal interest in our industry may be. Many of us have been saying for some time that the November election will likely impact this potential path. The view was, simply, that a Hillary Clinton Presidency would most assuredly continue the activist tendencies of the current administration, while a Donald Trump administration would have completely different priorities – far removed from our little corner of the universe.

As of Tuesday, we have our answer. The historical election that will install Donald J. Trump as our nation’s 45th President may also derail Department of Labor intentions for a more aggressive involvement in workers’ compensation. In my estimation, the appetite for a piece of our industry just dropped considerably.

Some people may feel as though this gives us an “out” of some type. They may believe that conversations and attempted improvements are no longer necessary. Conversely, people and groups working on projects to engage and advise the federal government (in a manner similar to the recent NASI report that accompanied the DOL Report on workers’ comp) may feel the need or urge to withdraw from that effort; simply because the time is not right or the new administration will not be focused on our issues. I would state unequivocally that this type of thinking is a mistake.

We should not be talking about issues in comp simply to defend ourselves from the unknown. We should not stop engaging others because we feel outsiders are not properly situated to hear what we have to say. Ultimately we aren’t meeting and talking to keep others from acting; we are engaged in dialogue to repair those things that need fixing.

The work we do in the workers’ compensation industry affects people’s lives. We influence the quality and success of recovering workers all across this nation. When we get it right, which we do in the majority of cases, it works out ok. When we fail, however, lives are damaged and people suffer. Identifying and fixing those failures is essential to the overall health and long term viability of workers’ comp.

In the end, it is not politics, but lives, that really matter. The conversation is yielding positive results, and it should continue its momentum forward. The life quality of employers and future injured workers hangs in the balance. 

I say we talk on.

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