It is once again that time of year, where I dust off my crystal ball and gaze into the not so distant future to determine and predict what lies ahead for the workers’ compensation industry. My (less than annually produced) predictions for the coming year have become legendary (mostly in my own mind) if for no other reason that they so often prove to be spectacularly inaccurate. Still, being generally too stupid to recognize failure when it slaps me in the face, I persist in offering these prognostications so that the industry may be better prepared for what may or may not lie just ahead. 

  1. The Opioid Battle Will Continue –
    Might as well start out with a blinding glimpse of the obvious. The workers’ compensation battle against opioid misuse and abuse will continue unabated. The biggest difference this year is that the workers’ comp warriors on the front lines will be older, fatter and grayer. We may have trouble remembering who we were fighting, or for what reason. Some fighters will start needing adult diapers. Some will refuse to wear them. On a related note, the well-established hashtag #CleanUpTheMess will become #WhoLeftThisMess, or the somewhat more accusatorial #Who’sMessIsThis? Whatever the result, we want the music turned down and all these people off our lawn.
  2. The Hot Seat Will Be Syndicated –
    Our new worker’s compensation webinar program, “The Hot Seat”, will be picked up by a national network and converted to a weekly series. We will be dropped after just four weeks, however, when it is discovered that I am completely incapable of handling my new-found fame and must be checked into some type of rehab resort to deal with whatever problem I find myself with. My Hot Seat co-host, Judge David Langham, will fare a bit better. He will go on to take second place in the fall season of “Dancing with The Stars,” losing by just one point to Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
  3. New York WCB Will Get a Complete Technological Upgrade –
    Long struggling with notoriously outdated technology, the New York Workers’ Compensation Board will receive an unexpected boost when all of their claim records get moved to a computer that is much more powerful than anything they currently have. The bad news is the computer will be Anthony Weiner’s laptop, which was accidentally sold to the WCB by the FBI in an Evidence Room Scratch and Dent Sale. Work at the WCB will grind to a standstill, as no employee is actually willing to touch Anthony Weiner’s laptop.
  4. Tele-Everything Will Be All the Rage –
    Not to be left behind by the rapidly expanding Tele-Health sector, the workers’ comp industry will be quick to adapt the marketing zeitgeist of the moment, if not the actual technology itself. Everything will be appended “tele” something, replacing the ubiquitous “i” previously associated with anything that contained a whiff of technology. We will have TeleDME, TeleTransportation, and, ironically, the TelePhone. Weight loss programs designed to reduce co-morbidities will be called Teletubbies. Driving to work will be telecommuting, and social media specialists will be renamed telemarketers. My 2019 predictions will be delivered telepathically.
  5. The Fight for $15 Will Succeed –
    The long standing #FightFor15 movement will finally achieve its desired goal, and the Federal Minimum Wage will be increased to $15 per hour in 2018. The expected bump in workers’ compensation premium will not be realized, however, as the undertaking will be quickly replaced by the #Hey,ThereIsARobotWhereMyJobUsedToBe movement, as well as the #WhyIsThisUnemploymentLineSoLong? crusade.
  6. Gig Economy Workers’ Will Almost Get Comp Coverage –
    Long a stumbling block to full utilization of the gig, or sharing economy, states will cleverly craft a solution designed to provide workers’ compensation protection to all independent contractors in this burgeoning field. The solution will be a mandated coverage program funded by equal contributions from the Gig workers and the companies they partner with. The result will be a fund containing billions of dollars. A problem arises when it is realized that no app exists for the purchase of workers’ compensation insurance. Unable to function without an “app for that,” the gig industry wanders aimlessly until they wind up blowing the entire account in a night of heavy drinking and debauchery. Ironically, there are several apps for that.
  7. Workers’ Comp Will Develop its Own Cryptocurrency –
    Inspired by the overwhelming yet mystifying success of Bitcoin, the workers’ compensation industry launches its own digital currency. It is believed that this will streamline the claims management process by making payment for services extremely efficient, and allow for better process accountability. Also, it is recognized that by bypassing Federal banking systems, the industry can more easily adopt and pay for medicinal Cannabis, which is currently all the rage. Since the name “Bitcoin” was taken, cryptocurrency developed for our industry will be called Bit-O-Honey. It will be available at drug and grocery stores around the nation. The current exchange rate for Bit-O-Honey is approximately $1.79 for one (or 3 for $2 if you have a CVS card). Problems arise when injured workers are not thrilled about being paid in Bit-O-Honey units. Plus, we see a huge increase in weight gain, diabetes and other co-morbidity issues. Massive numbers of massive injured workers will have to be enrolled in the Teletubby program, which, fortunately, accepts Bit-O-Honey.
  8. Blockchain is Coming –
    The newest thing to beat all things is Blockchain, and the tech loving and innovative workers’ compensation industry will adopt it without question or hesitation. Blockchain, contrary to what some believe, does not consist of a wood block and length of metal chain, but is rather an innovative way to manage data and transactions. Blockchain is a distributed database system on a network of computer nodes that is fully transparent and open, keeps your data everywhere, yet available to no one. It is purported to be safe and hacker proof. Yeah, workers’ comp will be all over that…..
  9. The States Will Finally Develop a Common FROI –
    Just when we thought it was not possible, a convention of all state workers’ comp agencies will be held for the express purpose of designing and deploying a single First Report of Injury Form for the nation. The effort involves 673 people and takes 10 months, 2 of which are spent trying to determine what they should have for lunch. Another 2 months are spent agreeing on the actual definition of the word “lunch”. Finally, after much effort and energy, a common FROI emerges that all states agree to use. Unfortunately, it is 62 pages long and must be completed in 17 languages, including Klingon.
  10. Workers’ Comp Will Not Escape Sexual Harassment Controversies –
    Proving it can be trendy with the best of other industries, the workers’ compensation industry will have its own high profile sexual harassment scandals come to light in 2018. As a result of intense public pressure over tawdry disclosures, the annual “Girls of Workers’ Comp” Calendar will cease publication in this year. Numerous Sexual Harassment seminars will be scheduled around the country. This will cause confusion for some men, who do not realize until too late that these are anti-harassment oriented. Women’s groups will start an “Only Work” campaign to remind men to maintain professional comportment in the workplace. This will prompt a change in movement hashtags from #MeToo to #MEOW. The industry will not be able to shake the nagging feeling that it loses something in translation.

And there you have it. My Top Ten predictions for the workers’ comp industry. It looks to be a year of intense activity and change. Or not. We’ll come back in December and see how I did…..

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