From Bob’s Cluttered Desk, a Clear Vision for the Future of Workers’ Comp

By David Wylie, editorial coordinator

By David Wylie, editorial coordinator

Digesting my daily dose of LexisNexis top workers’ comp blogs – of which this is not one….yet – I was struck by something Bob Wilson said recently. Bob is president and CEO of More importantly for our purposes, he is the man behind the thought-provoking blog titled “From Bob’s Cluttered Desk.”

It seems that in his spare time, Bob is on a mission to rebrand the workers’ compensation system.

The system debuted in America 100 years ago as a means of protecting workers from the consequences of on-the-job injuries. Implicit in that mission is making sure workers are compensated for medical expenses and lost wages, a necessary yet short-sighted goal.

Bob argues that the workers’ comp system can and should do more than simply protect injured workers’ financial health. It should invest in their physical health, as well.

“Disability rates are on a dramatic rise, and being completely dependent on others is becoming socially normalized,” noted Bob. “As workers, we are getting older by the day. Our knees are wearing out. Our backs are starting to fail. Many of us have no appreciable skills beyond our current jobs. It is a recipe for disaster if we don’t act, and act quickly.”

Bob’s call to action includes a new name for the workers’ comp system: the workers’ recovery system. The new name suggests a new philosophy that we at Texas Mutual couldn’t agree with more.

“Restoring life and viability by returning to function via the process of workers’ recovery must be the wave of the future,” explained Bob. “The choice is simple. Embrace the philosophy today, or pay for the reality tomorrow.”

Bob gets it. He understands that accidents happen, even in the safest workplaces. When they do, the workers’ recovery system should be there to relieve the financial burdens that come with workplace injuries, just as it has been for more than a century. But injured workers should also be able to count on the system to help them get well and return as productive members of the team.

Coincidentally, the Texas Legislature also agrees with Bob. In 2005, lawmakers passed House Bill 7, the most comprehensive reform of the Texas workers’ compensation system since 1989.

HB 7 was in part a response to studies that showed Texas injured workers did not return to the job at the same rate as their counterparts in other states. Many of the bill’s provisions, including workers’ compensation health care networks, were designed to improve the quality of care for injured workers and close the return-to-work gap. But often, an injured worker’s recovery has as much to do with his or her emotional condition as the quality of care delivered. (To find out whether HB 7 is working as expected, see the 2013 network report card issued by the Research and Evaluation Group.)

Texas Mutual’s claims professionals have seen the disability mindset consume injured workers: “I’m injured, and I cannot return to work.” They’ve witnessed the stress and depression that often come with being out of work and away from peers for extended periods. I applaud Bob for leading this charge. It won’t be easy, and I hope he will not have to go at it alone. Here’s to the next 100 years as the workers’ recovery system.

Watch this short video by Texas Mutual to learn how a return-to-work program benefits your business.


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