Archive for the ‘Industry Events’ Category

WCRI’s Annual Conference: Two Days of Research Data. What Could Be Better?

Monday, February 15th, 2016

The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, located in the heart of Geek Heaven, Cambridge, Massachusetts, begins its 32nd Annual Issues and Research Conference in less than a month, 23 days to be precise. The conference is always interesting and often highly informative. Looking at the Agenda, this year’s effort seems to hit on both marks.

The theme is Understanding Today to Prepare for Tomorrow, which I guess could be anyone’s daily Mantra, but is exactly what the WCRI has been doing since its founding in 1983.

A lot has happened in the workers’ comp world since then. Perhaps the most astonishing development is the tremendous rise in medical costs. In the mid-1980s, medical costs comprised about 44% of total loss cost dollars, while indemnity payments took the lion’s share of 56%. Today, we see something entirely different, with medical costs taking up around 60% of the total. How times have changed!

However, comparing medical to indemnity costs is a bit like the old apples and oranges cliché. By that I mean that medical costs, despite fee schedules, have been able to go on there own little rocket ride to the moon in most states. Indemnity payment increases, on the other hand, are everywhere limited and tied in some way to the rise in the average weekly wage in the various states. And since 1973, average hourly wages, measured in constant 1984 dollars, have increased by a paltry 4%. This is one of the reasons why, despite a continuing decrease in injury frequency, a concomitant increase in severity doesn’t move the indemnity needle.

WCRI’s conference will dive into workers’ comp’s thorny issues with both feet. The session entitled Impact of Fee Schedules on Case-Shifting in Workers’ Compensation promises to be interesting, indeed. The relationship of case-shifting to the ACA has been something that many have opined about, but now I presume we’ll see some solid data.

Another session that looks as if it will present both interest and fireworks is the Opt-Out Panel. Actually, there are two Op-Out Panels. WCRI is devoting nearly three hours to the subject. Seat belts should be fastened.

I’m looking forward to this year’s conference. It’s happening  March 10-11 at the Westin Copley Place Hotel. Hope to see you there.

From a Lonely Gate at O’Hare Airport

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

No trip is ever totally smooth. To prove the point, a couple hundred of humanity’s weary children  and I now sit at O’Hare’s Gate B9 waiting for a pilot to fly us home to Boston. Seems that the pilot originally scheduled has gone AWOL. Whatever the reason, he’s not here, so United Airlines is scrounging around for a replacement. None of the passengers has volunteered.

The rest of the trip has been excellent. I’m returning from Boise, Idaho, where I was honored to deliver the keynote address at the Idaho Industrial Commission’s Annual Workers’ Compensation Conference.

Commission Executive Director Mindy Montgomery, conference organizer Dara Barney and the rest of the outstanding Commission staff did a wonderful job pulling together a highly informative and stimulating day for more than 300 of Idaho’s workers’ comp professionals, including attorneys, claims adjusters, medical providers, agents and brokers.

And before we go any further, I want to publicly acknowledge a debt I owe to the Commission’s Chair, R. D. Maynard, who is also the current President of the IAIABC. In his opening remarks he used a phrase I’ve never heard, but which I intend to steal for the rest of my life. The phrase? In describing a smart person, R. D. suggested she was “smarter than a treeful of owls.”

In my hour and a half presentation (yes, that’s a long one) I didn’t come close to R. D.’s bon mot, but I did discuss three big picture issues and their relationship to workers’ comp:

  1. Rapidly accelerating artificial intelligence
  2. The generational changing of the guard as Baby Boomers pass the torch to Millennials
  3. The New Normal Economy.

I asked the attendees to what degree they thought our industry has or has not kept pace with these transformational issues. I suggested strongly that it has not. By the end of the presentation, most seemed to agree. It’s almost as if for the industry it’s business as usual, but for the industry’s customers, the employers who pay the bills, it’s full speed ahead toward tomorrow.

In the possibly absurd leap of faith that our Jetway’s umbilical cord to O’Hare will be brief, in this post I’m only going to address Item #1, above, the rapidly accelerating development of artificial intelligence.

During the Great Recession that began in 2008, American business lost 16% of its workforce, which forced a major re-evaluation of how business is done. Sixty percent of the jobs that were lost were lost by the middle class, but, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, only 22% of those jobs came back, the other nearly 40% dropping into significantly lower paying jobs. Why? Well, one reason is that beginning in 2010, we saw The Rise of the Robots. Since then, there has been a nearly exponential growth in the deployment of industrial robots and the artificial intelligence that is more and more governing them. Employers are realizing that fewer and fewer humans are needed to make high-quality, reliable products. And robots don’t get hurt and enter the workers’ comp system. You certainly insure them, but not with workers’ comp.

Two examples:

  1. At an Ikea factory in Sweden, book case components are assembled, packaged, shrink-wrapped, palletized and made ready for distribution 24 hours a day without the touch of a human hand.
  2. Since defeating Ken Jennings on Jeopardy, IBM’s Watson has continued to learn at a faster and faster pace. Today, Watson seems more like a thinking person, whoops, excuse me, make that thinking machine, than most humans.

In Idaho, I challenged the attendees to ponder how long it would be before some forward thinking insurance hotshot cottons on to the idea that Watson might make a great claims adjuster. Think about it. Handling no more than 125 open claims today is pretty much considered  ideal. Watson could handle thousands – 24 hours a day.

I’m not suggesting that we are on the cusp of watching claims adjusters suddenly go the way of the Wooly Mammoth. No, there is a nuance to the claims process that human beings possess and robots, such as Watson, don’t — yet. But it seems inevitable to me that Watson and his brothers and sisters will continue to learn at an ever faster rate, to the point that they will, at some point in the not too distant future, acquire the nuance displayed by today’s best adjusters.

And what about the armies of highly-trained and, in some cases, highly-paid people populating the many pockets on the workers’ comp health care pool table?

The point is that big change is not coming; it’s here. So, the question becomes – What is the more than 100-year-old workers’ compensation industry doing about it? What is the plan?

Before wheels up (yup, we’re finally getting off the runway), I’d like to congratulate both Bob Wilson, of workerscompensation.com, and Mark Pew, of Prium, for their spellbinding (I’m not exaggerating) presentations at yesterday’s Idaho conference. It was a privilege to be on the same program with these workers’ compensation thought leaders.

I’ll post this sometime after getting safe and sound to Boston, “the home of the bean and the cod, where the Lodges talk only to Cabots, and the Cabots talk only to God.”

The AI Robotic Tsunami: Coming To A Workplace Near You!

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

In 2013, Oxford professors Carl Frey and Michael Osborne published what became a highly read and highly cited study suggesting that machines could replace 47% of America’s jobs over the next 25 years. To say that they got the business world’s attention is a little bit like saying Ted Williams was a pretty good ballplayer.

The study, which examined more than 700 US occupations, found that jobs in transportation, logistics, and administrative and office work are at “high risk” for automation. “We identified several key bottlenecks currently preventing occupations being automated,” said Dr. Osborne when the study was released. “As big data helps to overcome these obstacles, a great number of jobs will be put at risk.”

Consider transportation. As of July 17, 2015, more than 20 Google self-driving cars have logged more than 1.9 million miles around California streets and have yet to cause an accident, although they’ve been hit 14 times by other cars, 11 of those hits being rearenders. So, how long do you think it will be before the transportation industry latches onto the self-driving phenomenon as a way to cut costs and increase productivity?

And logistics? Even now, Amazon and other retailers are flying drones around their warehouses delivering material for shipment, work that, before Dronedom, actual human beings performed, albeit more slowly and, every once in a while, with a bit of breakage.

And can we ignore IBM’s Watson, or Rethink Robotic’s Baxter (The AI parents just have to give their artificially intelligent children human names, don’t they?)?

The productivity increase is awesome, indeed. But the trade-off is a human job.

Of course, someone has to keep the drones flying. And someone has to keep Google’s cars humming along. This is a point the good Drs. Frey and Osborne did not examine deeply in their 2013 paper- that as jobs are eliminated due to automation, other jobs, more complex in most cases, will be created. This from the paper:

Our findings imply that as technology races ahead, low-skilled workers will move to tasks that are not susceptible to computerization – i.e., tasks that require creative and social intelligence. For workers to win the race, however, they will have to acquire creative and social skills.

But, hang on a minute. Just when we begin to think that Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” is a’comin round the corner like an out-of-control, self-driving 18-wheeler, Forrester Research released yesterday The Future of Jobs, 2025: Working Side-By-Side With Robots (the study may be purchased from Forrester for $499.00). Authored by Forrester analyst J. P. Gownder, the paper only looks out ten years, compared to Frey and Osborne’s 25. Even so, Gownder’s prognosis is nowhere as bleak as the Oxfordians’. They postulate a total job loss of 71 million. Gownder, using government data and many interviews with business execs, academics and pundits, suggests a net job loss of 9.1 million, or 7% of the workforce.  Where I come from, J. P., that’s a lot of jobs, but I take your point.

Notwithstanding the competing research, what we can say is that big change is not coming; it’s already here. This is an industrial era evolution. There have been many before. Remember that before the automobile, there was a thriving market for buggy whips.

This is one of the topics I’ll be covering on Thursday, October 29, in my Keynote Address to the Idaho Industrial Commission’s 2015 Annual Seminar on Workers’ Compensation. I’ll be discussing how artificial intelligence, along with two other emerging employment issues, is impacting workers’ compensation and how smart employers can deal with it successfully.

Meanwhile, here’s a little something for workers who awaken one day to find their newest work partner is no longer Homo Sapiens, but rather Ratus Robotus.

Workers who adjust survive.
Many of them even thrive.

One Last Look At “The Demolition Of Workers’ Comp”

Monday, March 16th, 2015

This year’s WCRI conference is now a week in the past. It was an informative event with session presenters waxing eloquent with their charts and graphs and the general nitty gritty of workers’ compensation. There was a touching tribute to departing Executive Director Rick Victor and an equally touching and humble valedictory by him. An uplifting moment, that.

But in the week since then nobody’s talking about the charts and graphs and uplifting moments. No, what has filled the workers’ comp blogosphere is a continuing discussion about the ProPublica/NPR series, The Demolition of Workers’ Comp, the result of a year-long investigation by ProPublica’s Michael Grabell and NPR’s Howard Berkes.

On the date of publication, we wrote about the Grabell/Berkes piece, as well as another investigative report coincidentally released on the same day, this one by OSHA, entitled Adding Inequality to Injury: The Costs Of Failing To Protect Workers On The Job.

Both reports were highly critical, arguing that over the last decade more than 30 states have reduced benefits to injured workers. The ProPublica/ NPR series illustrated its thesis by focusing on individual workers who had suffered horrific injuries with poverty-inducing benefits. During the WCRI conference, as well as in the intervening week, the series has been roundly damned by workers comp professionals as biased in the extreme.

While explicitly saying he was not judging The Demolition of Workers’ Comp, Dr. Victor said, “It is hard to write a balanced report based on anecdotes.” Others in the business have not been so kind.
Most of our colleagues who have commented on the series have focused on what they perceived to be wrong with it. Lost in the weeds has been what is right with it. So, let me suggest what I think are two of the serious messages we should take from The Demolition of Workers’ Comp.

First, it is indisputable that there is wide variance and, in many cases, profound inequality with respect to workers’ comp benefits provided by the states. Grabell and Berkes pound this point home with the heaviest sledgehammer they can find. Workers’ comp pros may not like that, but it doesn’t make the point any less valid. Sure, they illustrate the issue with the most glaring examples, but so what? The inequality of scheduled benefits is absolutely true. It is true as Grabell and Berkes write that “The maximum compensation for the loss of an eye is $27,280 in Alabama, but $261,525 in Pennsylvania.” It is true that “The loss of an arm…is worth up to $48,840 in Alabama, $193,950 in Ohio and $439,858 in Illinois.

It is also true that maximum total temporary disability benefits differ among the states, sometimes markedly so. For example, if a worker living in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, is injured on the job, maximum TTD weekly benefits are equal to the Massachusetts state average weekly wage, which is currently $1,214.99. However, if another worker, living 3 miles to the west – in New York – suffers the same injury, his or her maximum weekly benefit is $808.65. Is that fair? Why the difference?

The answer is that, although the average weekly wages in both states are roughly equal ($2.01 separate them) and although Massachusetts’ maximum benefit is equal to the state average weekly wage ($1,214.99), in New York the maximum benefit, at $808.65, is only two-thirds of the the Empire State’s average weekly wage. So, the Massachusetts maximum benefit is 50% higher. Both workers may shop at the same Big Y supermarket, but I can guarantee the Big Y doesn’t have one price for the New Yorker and another for the Bay Stater.

To me, this glaring disparity in state benefits, especially scheduled benefits due to the loss of bodily function, cries out for profound reform. Trouble is, I don’t see any Galahad coming over the crest of the hill to right this wrong. Do you?

The second message concerns employers and it is this: Regardless of what you may think of benefits paid to injured workers, and despite the perceived high medical loss costs and physician dispensing issues we spent nearly two days last week discussing in Boston, it is true that, nationwide, workers’ comp premium rates are at a level not seen since the very early 1980s, and, in some states, the 1970s. It is true that, in terms of workers’ comp premiums, today’s employers have never had it so good.

That’s great, and I plead guilty to having worked very hard over the last 30 years helping employers make that happen. But perhaps it’s time to take some of those premium savings and invest them in better scheduled benefits in the states that lag far behind in the fairness race. Perhaps it’s time for all states to take another look at the 1972 National Commission’s recommendations and consider re-examining how they stand with respect to recommendation adoption. Finally, perhaps it’s time we workers’ comp professionals unload the gatling gun and stop shooting the messengers.

WCRI: Day One

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Two major issues were discussed this morning on the first day of WCRI’s annual conference: cost shifting from group health to workers’ comp and physician dispensing.
Dr. Richard Victor, the 31-year WCRI CEO who’ll be retiring in 2015, hung the cost shifting issue firmly around the neck of capitated group health insurance plans. His reasoning went this way:

    • Capitated plans have been steadily decreasing in number since the turn of the century.
    • A capitated plan pays doctors a set amount for each patient in the plan assigned to them.
    • Workers’ comp is fee for service and pays more than capitated plans.
    • A major goal of the ACA is to establish Accountable Care Oranizations, which pay by capitation.
    • Therefore, there will be a reversal in the decline of capitated plans and they will steadily increase in the future.
    • Consequently, there will be a heightened incentive for doctors and patients to shift some claims from group health to workers’ comp, especially soft tissue injuries, which are harder to attribute to a specific cause.

The second presentation, one that was a bit more dense, looked at physician dispensing, specifically in the 18 states that have changed their rules governing reimbursement.
The physician dispensing panel was moderated by WCRI’s Dr. Vennela Thumula, and consisted of her, Alex Swedlow, President of the California Workers’ Compensation Institute, Dongchun Wang, of WCRI, and myMatrixx’s Artemis Emslie.
With the exception of Dr. Swedlow’s presentation, I have the following takeaways from this panel:

      • The state reforms lowered costs.
      • But physicians continued to dispense, because, even with the lower reimbursements to them, they were still getting paid significantly more than pharmacies were paid for the same drugs.
      • The lower costs may not be sustainable, because Pharma has figured out that it can retake the low ground by changing the strength of drugs. Vicodin is an example.

Regarding Alex Swedlow’s presentation – I felt like I was drinking from a firehose. Try as I might, I couldn’t keep up with all of the data he was dishing out. I know it was really good, but I felt like the Ed Sullivan Plate Spinner trying to keep all the plates on their sticks while being handed yet more sticks and plates. What my feeble brin came away with was this: California workers’ comp is a many headed hydra, and Alex and his colleagues can’t keep up with all the heads. They’re fighting the good fight, and the research produced by the CWRI is awesome, indeed, but there are forces at work in the Golden State that are formidable and relentless.

Gary Orren, Ph.D., of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, gave the last session of the morning. It was titled, Persuasion: The Science and Art of Effective Influence. Dr. Orren built his talk around Joshua Chamberlain’s heroic contribution at the Battle of Gettysburg. Chamberlain’s actions at the battle of Little Round Top were critical to the Union winning the battle of Gettysburg and, ultimately, the war. One could argue that if his Maine troops didn’t succeed at Little Round Top there would be no United States today.

As a history buff, I found this to be great stuff, but I have no idea what it had to do with workers’ compensation.

In the afternoon sessions, NCCI’s Barry Lipton presented data on the Price Impact of WC Fee Schedules and WCRI’s Dr. Rebecca Yang on the Perverse Effects of Low Fee Schedules. For Liptpon’s preasentation, I had returned to the firehose. He offered yet more data showing that workers comp costs routinely exceed those of group health and Medicare.

I take a bit of an issue with Yang’s presentation, which suggested that low fee schedules lead to problems with access to care – what doctor wants to treat someone if payment is really low?

Well, I suggest that WCRI take a hard look at Massachusetts, the state with the lowest fee schedule in the nation, where medical loss costs are 36% of total loss costs and where there is no problem with access to care. Just a suggestion.

I look forward to tomorrow’s sessions. Now, it’s on to a good dinner, followed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Szymanowski’s opera, King Roger.
Couldn’t be better.

WCRI, Inside Baseball in California, Patient Records in New Jersey and Who’s Managing What Care

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

The WCRI Annual Issues and Research Conference gets underway a week from today in Boston. The conference and Lynch Ryan are each in their 31st year, but, truth to tell, the first WCRI conference could have been held in a telephone booth (not The Tardis).

We wrote about this conference a couple of weeks ago, so no need to cover old ground. However, it is worthwhile to mention how valuable the conference has become. It’s a serious event attended by serious professionals. Sorry- not much partying. Las Vegas it aint. And this year its style is even more cramped what with more than eight feet of snow hanging around. But the walkway around the Charles is cleared, so you can bring your running shoes. I, on the other hand, coffee in hand, will be happy to wave goodbye to you as you head out the hotel door for that morning run. The older I get the more I subscribe to Winston Churhill’s view of exercise: he said he got enough of it carrying the coffins of his athletic friends.

Unfortunately, we just learned that the WCRI has “reluctantly” decided to cancel its Opt Out session, because “at least one of the presenters felt that the time allotted for the session was too short for the objectives to be well-met.” This is truly unfortunate given the momentum the Opt Out movement is gaining nationally. You would have thought the presenters could have raised this issue a lot earlier. Nonetheless, I’m sure there will be much opt out discussion among attendees outside of the sessions. WCRI is offering to refund registration money for those who choose to “opt out” of Boston due to the cancellation. Regardless, I hope to see you in Boston.

Inside Baseball In California
When looking for something a bit out of the ordinary, California workers’ comp never disappoints. Work Comp Central’s Greg Jones reports this morning that:

A Southern California applicants’ law firm claims in court filings that Knox Ricksen “hacked” the computer network of a vendor it uses to sign up new clients to gain access to an estimated 2,000 confidential and privileged documents.

In the suit, the plainiffs’ law firm, Reyes & Barsoum, says it has a vendor, HQ Sign-up Services Inc., whose job it is to “sign up” customers for the firm. The suit alleges that the defense law firm Knox Ricksen hacked HQ Sign-up, gaining access to claimant information which HQ Sign-up would forward to lawyers at Reyes & Barsoum. This would give Knox Ricksenan unfair and illegal advantage in the legal proceedings. People, I did not title this Inside Baseball for nothing!

This little dust-up shines a light on the dog-eat-dog adjuducative business that is California workers’ comp. It’s not pretty and it never has been. I wonder what opt out legislation would do for California?

Patient Records In New Jersey
Now we balance the cesspool into which California’s workers’ comp courtroom wars sometimes descend with workers’ comp law as it should be practiced. John Geaney, a man for whom I have great respect, is an executive committee member and shareholder with New Jersey’s Capehart Scatchard. John began publishing a client newsletter in 2001. A few years ago it morphed into a blog, which Lexis Nexus awards as one the nation’s Top 25 workers’ comp blogs. John’s blog should be required reading for all workers’ comp professionals in New Jersey. For that matter, it’s instructive wherever you are.
Today’s blog post concerns the right of injured workers to have access to their medical files. In my experience, there are some claims adjusters that resist this. However, doing so can worsen the situation and alienate the injured worker. Transparency is good for everyone. This blog post is well worth reading.

Who’s Managing What Care
In his Quick Tips blog post of today, Barry Thompson takes no prisoners as he derides what has become of “Managed Care,” which Barry has renamed “Manipulated Cost.” His is a tale told in anger, and he asks, “Where’s the outrage?” Good question. In the early 1990s, I gave a presentation at NCCI’s Annual Issues Conference and titled the presentation Managed Care: Who Manages, Who Cares? ‘Twas ever thus. It seems that the question is still begging for an answer.

The WCRI Annual Conference: May The Weather Gods Cooperate

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

As Bostonians try to dig out from the most snow ever recorded in a 30-day period in Boston, we look forward to the WCRI’s upcoming Annual Conference at the Westin Copley Place Hotel on Thursday and Friday, March 5th and 6th.

More about the snow a little later, but first the conference.

This year, the conference theme’s title is Resilience or Renovation. However, we won’t get the resilience and renovation until Friday, Day Two. Day One is devoted to updates on all things medical, starting with Dr. Richard Victor, the Institute’s Executive Director, discussing the impact of the ACA on case shifting, which promises to be interesting, indeed. From there we move on to physician dispensing and the perverse effects of low fee schedules.

When the boat docks at Resilience and Renovation on Day Two, we begin with a session titled Resilience: Lessons From Two Decades of Reforms. The panel will discuss reforms in Texas, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Florida. While I am sure this discussion will be stimulating, as well as engaging, I find it curious that conference planners skipped over the greatest reform in the history of workers compensation. It happened in 1992 right where conference attendees will be sitting – the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

“Renovation” is a good way to describe a couple of late morning sessions on Day Two, one on Opt Out and the other on challenges to the constitutionality of workers comp. You might think that a bit wonky, but I think attendees will find it thought provoking. It’s interesting that the Opt Out session will focus on the Texas perspective, not the Oklahoman. You may recall that the Texas Opt Out provision has what I consider to be flaws of the first order. Those flaws were corrected when Oklahoma adopted its version of Opt out.

All in all, the conference is an excellent opportunity for workers comp professionals to stay in front of the research curve and to connect with some of the leading lights in the field. I hope to see you there.
Now, the weather. Here’s a Fenway Park snow sellout. Seats full of snow fans.


Speaking for all Bostonians, I think we’ve had enough. Really. Monday night, during our third major snowstorm within a week and a half, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced there would be no public transportation the following day. None. A gazillion people ride what we affectionately refer to as “The T” to get to work every day in and around Boston. Not Tuesday. Shortly after that, standing in front of the TV cameras, Governor 5-weeks-in-office Charley Baker said the 100-year-old MBTA’s performance is “not acceptable.” I guess the bloom is off his rose. We have entered the “find a scapegoat” phase.

Yesterday, the first head rolled – Dr. Beverly Scott, the T’s General Manager. She won’t be the only one.
The rest of us will be fine, but, my God, I’m looking at more than five feet of snow outside my door, and it’s not a drift! And Boston has nothing on Worcester, just 35 miles to the west where nearly 100 inches, that’s more than eight feet, have already fallen at about the halfway point of the snow season. Mother Nature has now gifted Worcester with more snow than any other city in America. Take that, Fargo! You,too, Buffalo! When this stuff melts (please, God, make it melt) we’ll probably have a new lake to rival Michigan in Central Massachusetts. Oh, and our friendly local meteorologists, never happier than when they’re forecasting impending doom, now predict that beginning tonight we’ll descend into the coldest weather of the year. High temps will be in the single digits. Human digits will freeze and fall off. And Saturday night through Sunday there’s a foot more of the fluffy white stuff headed our way just in time for Valentine’s Day. The Lord just keeps showering us with his tender mercies.

But here’s the good news: Spring training is right around the corner. Pitchers and catchers report in three days. By the time the WCRI Conference rolls around Fenway South will be in full bloom. And here in Boston the sun will be shining, the snow will be gone, temperatures will be balmy and the T will be running on time.

And pigs will be seen flying in formation outside the windows of the Westin Copley Place Hotel.

It’s North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

naosh
May 4 through 10 is North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week, a commemoration that has occurred since 1997 through an agreement between safety organizations in Canada, the United States and Mexico. The goal is to focus the attention of employers, employees, the general public, and all partners in occupational safety and health on the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace, at home and in the community. The slogan is Safety and Health: A Commitment for Life , and this year’s theme is How Safe Are You!
Here are participating partners / sponsors, where more information can be obtained:
American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE)
Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE)
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS)
Labour Program of Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC)
Threads of life

WCRI Conference: Day One

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Four sessions today, beginning with MIT’s Jonathon Gruber in a stemwinder. Gruber, one of the principal architects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and, with John McDonough, a prime mover in the Massachusetts health care reform of 2006, must spend 80% of his waking hours debunking rumors, which have become urban myths, which have turned into alleged “facts” regarding all things ACA. Witness for the prosecution – Sarah Palin’s Death Panels.
Dr. Gruber pointed out that one of the important differences between the Massachusetts reform, which he convincingly demonstrated was the template for the ACA, and the ACA was that Massachusetts did not have to focus on costs, because Ted Kennedy and Governor Mitt Romney had maneuvered to have the costs covered with an annual infusion of $500 million dollars of federal money. The Massachusetts reform could not have happened without this.
Nonetheless, the goal of Romney’s reform was to provide health insurance for all of Massachusetts’s citizens. And with more than 97% of the population covered, this has happened.
Gruber went on to say that, despite the rocky beginning, the federal exchanges are now running “as they should.” He suggested that a prime goal of the ACA, Medicaid expansion, is falling behind expectations, because many of the governors in the southern states have chosen to not participate. In effect, they have turned down 100% federal funding for three years and 90% funding thereafter. Frankly, I consider this an abomination. Millions of Americans will be harmed because of this politically idealogical decision. Perhaps, this will change in the future. One can hope.
Dr. Gruber reminded attendees that it took about three years to find out if the Massachusetts reform was working the way it was supposed to (It was). He suggested that a similar period would have to pass before we know if the ACA has done what it was engineered to do. Until then, we should be “humble” to recognize what we don’t know and “patient,” because the ACA is a process, not an event.
The rest of the day was devoted to Dr. Carol Telles reporting on the results of health care reforms in Texas, where costs have declined significantly, and Dr. Rebecca Yang reporting on the effects of the Illinois 30% reduction in the medical fee schedule. It appears that in Illinois costs of professional services (primary care and the like) have declined by 24%, but costs of surgical services have risen significantly to a point where they are now 382% higher than Medicare. It would have been nice to know the impact on total health care costs.
I look forward to a stimulating day tomorrow.

WCRI Conference

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

I’ll be live-Tweeting from the WCRI Conference from Wed through Thurs so follow me at Twitter for updates.