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November 2, 2015

Wanted: Workers’ Comp ‘Warriors’

Summary:

The job of workers' comp manager often falls short of the respect and impact it deserves. Let's redefine the role as a "warrior."

Photo Courtesy of Dennis Jarvis

Employers need to define and fortify the position of workers’ comp manager. It is a sad reality that this job often falls short of the impact and respect it deserves. It owns no distinct professional standard as compared with the role of risk manager, HR manager, safety engineer or even production supervisor, and the role is often added to those positions as an afterthought. Worst of all, employers freely allow vendors (third-party administrator or broker) to assign this job’s process and tasks. I say we retire the current notion of the “workers’ comp manager” and unleash the “workers’ comp warrior.”

Why? Because “warrior” recognizes what should be the employers’ daily fight against a WC system that puts data-driven process and so-called efficiency above personal service and intervention. The term “warrior” does not imply a negative position that simply fights fraud and bad actors… Rather, this is a noble fight that seeks the best and fastest route to employee healing and return to productivity.

Consider that “healing and return to productivity” as an endeavor has been dumbed down by our industry. Vendor preferences in the name of best practices would have you believe the task is met by simply reporting a new loss and leaving the employee at the whim of the claims and managed-care team. In reality, healing and return to productivity is an extremely complicated and personal process that is easily thwarted by the insult and cross-purposes of a claims team seeking “fast track” method while a managed-care team seeks “savings” based on a rigged system of medical reimbursement. Our industry-wide elephant in the room — churning WC claims — evidences a dire lack of ability to “heal and return to productivity.”

A WC warrior fights to ease the gauntlet for employees. She proclaims the hub-position in a turning wheel of WC action while establishing vendors and other aspects as spokes. Other wheel-spokes include employee expectation and responsibilities, supervisory role, top management support and resources, experienced-based allocation of costs, return to work (RTW) culture, medical providers, cooperation, etc. No two employer-wheels are completely alike, but all need a workers’ comp warrior at the center. No single vendor can re-create or support such a turning wheel. Most critically: In practical application, no employee skips the ride to a quality medical healing and return to productivity; however, any ill-intended employee who jumps off early is easily spotted.

Quick Tip: Raise the Bar and Redefine an Employer-Based “Warrior” Position

Key aspects of a “workers comp warrior” include:

– Emphasis on employee advocacy above all else

– Technical knowledge and experience in all the processes and interactions of WC

– Claim-by-claim insight otherwise not available via the common process

– Solutions, options and strategies tailored to each situation

– Real-time interaction, not adhering to adjuster diaries

– Inclusive program with company-wide involvement and awareness

– Learning opportunities seen in a poor claim outcome

– Accepting inevitable frustrations without blaming adjusters, doctors, state laws or employees

– Not falling for the perfect-world bubble that a broker or other vendors might try to claim exists

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About the Author

Barry Thompson is a 35-year-plus industry veteran. He founded Risk Acuity in 2002 as an independent consultancy focused on workers’ compensation. His expert perspective transcends status quo to build highly effective employer-centered programs.

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