This Week in Comp, March 24 – 28

Compiled by David Wylie, Editorial Coordinator

Compiled by David Wylie, Editorial Coordinator

This Week in Comp provides an overview of workers’ compensation news from across the country.

Safety

Workplace Safety Risks Primary Concern for Small Business
Slips, trips and falls account for nearly 25 percent of nonfatal workplace injuries. But only 21 percent of small-business owners feel prepared for them, according to a survey by EMPLOYERS, a specialty provider of workers’ compensation insurance and services…MORE

Legislative/Legal

Injured Worker Cost Per Claim Rises in Texas
Payments per claim for the medical care of injured workers in Texas grew nearly 8 percent in 2011, largely the effect of price increases from earlier reforms, according to a 16-state study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI)…MORE

Texas Medical Up 8%? Yawn…

David DePaolo explains that while injured worker cost per claim in Texas grew 8 percent in 2011, the average medical cost per claim on a 12-month average was fourth-lowest and 18 percent lower than the median of the 16-state study. DePaolo attributes Texas’ success largely to its culture…MORE

Fraud

N.Y. Grand Jury Report Recommends Changes to Prevent Workers’ Comp Fraud
A New York State Supreme Court grand jury report estimates that workers’ compensation fraud in the state’s construction industry alone cost approximately $500 million in 2011. The report recommends four ways to reduce fraud…MORE 

Workers’ Compensation Fraud and the Insurance Producer
Insurance companies and employers are not the only losers when it comes workers’ comp fraud. Agents have a lot on the line, too, according to a former cop who has put more people in jail working for an insurance company than he ever did in law enforcement…MORE

Return-to-Work

Return-to-More-Than-Work Programs Mean Always Having to Say, “I’m Sorry”
The phrase, “Return-to-Work” is scary. It too easily comes off as being an employer-centric program focused on cutting the employer’s exposures instead of focusing on the employee’s needs. Your return-to-work program needs to focus on the employee. not the employment. Design the program and the sales pitch around Return-to-Function, or Return-to-Meaningful-Life, not just return to a paycheck…MORE

Why Hold Weekly Meetings With Injured Employees?
Communication between employers and injured employees keeps employees engaged in the workplace and facilitates their return to the team…MORE

About the author
David Wylie is the editorial coordinator at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites.

Premium Fraud – Why Fight It?

By Grace Nicholas, Premium Fraud Unit Supervisor

By Grace Nicholas, Premium Fraud Unit Supervisor

Before I get too far into my first post as a member of the Texas Mutual blogging team, I need to clear something up. It’s the elephant in the room that insurance carriers and their policyholders too often shy away from discussing: Anyone who has a stake in the workers’ compensation system can commit fraud. Unfortunately, that includes employers.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here’s the good news. I’m new to blogging, but I’m a veteran in the fight against workers’ comp fraud. In my experience, the majority of employers, like the majority of claimants, are honest. A rare few, however, cheat the system. In the process, they take money out of their honest competitors’ pockets. Here’s a hypothetical situation for context.

After a lifetime of working for someone else, you take a chance and launch a business. Start-up costs, coupled with the struggle to build a customer  base, make those first years stressful. Still, you love what you do, and you’re committed to making it work.

Now let’s assume you’re bidding competitively on jobs, but you consistently lose to the same company. Strange, because it’s a start-up like yours. How does the owner keep getting the better of you? What does he know that you don’t? Is he a better salesman? Is he better at managing his costs? Maybe. Or maybe he’s cheating on his workers’ compensation premiums.

With the money he’s saving, your competitor underbids you on hard-earned, much-needed business. At this rate, it’s entirely possible he will eventually put you out of business.

A single employer can cheat their insurance carrier – and you – out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by under-reporting or hiding payroll and engaging in other fraud scams.

Insurance carriers have an obligation to protect their policyholders’ premium dollars. I hope your carrier of choice takes a proactive approach, investigating every report of suspected fraud by employers, claimants and health care providers. In a future post, I’ll give you some tips for helping your carrier identify and stop premium fraud.

About the author
Grace Nicholas is a certified fraud examiner and the premium fraud unit supervisor at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. In her 20 years with Texas Mutual, Grace has testified in numerous depositions and trials.  She has also shared her workers’ compensation fraud expertise as a speaker at numerous industry events. Prior to joining Texas Mutual in 1993, Grace worked for the Texas Department of Insurance as a financial examiner, reinsurance examiner and fraud investigator. Grace earned her BBA in Accounting from Texas State University.

This Week in Comp, March 17 – 20

Compiled by David Wylie, Editorial Coordinator

Compiled by David Wylie, Editorial Coordinator

This Week in Comp provides an overview of workers’ compensation news from across the country.

Opioid Epidemic

New, Comprehensive Opioid Treatment Guidance in Reed Group Disability Guidelines
People in safety-sensitive jobs should not take opioids. Furthermore, no evidence shows long-term efficacy of opioids, according to a new study conducted by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine…MORE

Safety

Shift workers beware: Sleep loss may cause brain damage
Are you a truck driver or shift worker planning to catch up on some sleep this weekend? Cramming in extra hours of shut-eye may not make up for those lost pulling all-nighters, according to new research…MORE

Socialization and Supervision Keys to Heading off Workplace Violence
Every act of workplace violence is preceded by incivility toward co-workers. Identifying and managing high-risk employees, anticipating their needs and providing support and resources can help avert tragedy…MORE 

Legislative/Legal

CO Pot Goes to Court
A Colorado man who legally uses marijuana for medicinal purposes is suing his former employer after being fired for failing a drug test…MORE

One Driving Safety Bill Moves Forward in Oklahoma, Another Pushed Back
The full Oklahoma Senate approved legislation barring cell phone use in Oklahoma school zones, but a bill that would ban texting while driving suffered a setback as it was sent back to committee…MORE

About the author
David Wylie is the editorial coordinator at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites.

On the Road with Texas Mutual Recruiting

Travel report:  Austin to Denton, 224 miles

Weather: Spring to Winter, back to Spring

Notable stops:  “The Super Pit” at UNT

By Stephanie Schumacher, Recruiting Consultant

By Stephanie Schumacher, Recruiting Consultant

Shortly after our visit to Baylor, the recruiting team’s travels took us to another sea of green in Denton, home of the University of North Texas (UNT).

The UNT career fair was held at UNT Coliseum, known on campus as “The Super Pit.” Over 100 employers gathered in the area circling the arena, called one of the finest basketball facilities in college athletics The facility was designed for functional flexibility and can easily be maneuvered into theatrical or concert configurations. The impressive Super Pit offers spectators an unobstructed view of the arena from every seat.

I was joined by Michelle Chamberlain of our Dallas regional office, along with UNT alumni Larry Martin and TJ LeBrun. Nearly 1,000 students poured into the building, anxious to find their future homes. The students who visited the Texas Mutual booth were risk management focused. Many are pursuing careers as underwriters or claims adjusters. A few even had multiple years of experience working for insurance carriers.

TJ noted, “This was a great way for Texas Mutual to increase brand awareness and exposure to the type of talent we can hopefully cultivate in the future.”

Larry Martin agreed. “Creating a pipeline of talent is critical to the future success of the company. The industry, as a whole, pulled back significantly on promoting itself as a career path during the recession. We would like to be on the forefront of efforts to reverse that.”

Where to next? Come out and meet some of our regional Texas Mutual all-stars at our final spring career fair:

April 3 – Texas State Technical College, Temple, TX

Ideas continue to roll in as our fall recruiting efforts evolve. Have suggestions or locations for our recruiting team? Send them to sschumacher@texasmutual.com.

About the author
Stephanie Schumacher is the corporate recruiter at Texas Mutual Insurance Company.  She was a founding partner and chief marketing officer at Platinum Select, LP, a medical staffing firm operating in all 50 states.  Platinum Select was recognized as the Fastest Growing Medical Staffing Company in the U.S. in 2006.  Stephanie spent five years traveling and collaborating on multiple startup concepts in Dallas.  She also served as a mentor for the City of Dallas’ Youth Today Entrepreneur Tomorrow program and was a board member for the West Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

This Week in Comp, March 10-14

Compiled by David Wylie, Editorial Coordinator

Compiled by David Wylie, Editorial Coordinator

This Week in Comp provides an overview of workers’ compensation news from across the country.

Opioid Epidemic

Killing Pain: Fewer Opioid Scripts
Opioid prescriptions dropped 5 percent between 2012 and 2013. Studies suggest, however, that patients may be experimenting with other dangerous drugs, such as heroin…MORE

Safety

Workplace Injuries Spike Following the Switch to Daylight Saving Time
Americans get an average of 40 minutes less sleep the night before Daylight Saving Time. Fatigue contributes to an increase in workplace accidents..MORE

Legislative Issues

Texas Workers’ Comp Reforms Working as Hoped
A WCRI analysis of Texas workers’ comp reforms showed that relative to 14 other states, medical cost per claim over a 15-year period declined from highest among the other states to a position in the bottom third. A big driver was a large decrease in utilization of non-facility care, which actually dropped by about 30% over the study period…MORE

Oklahoma Supreme Court Upholds Mutualization of CompSource
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has upheld a plan to convert the state workers’ compensation insurance agency into a mutual company. The legislation was challenged in a lawsuit alleging that CompSource is a state agency and its money and other assets, belong to the people of Oklahoma…MORE

Cost Savings in California Workers’ Comp Reform May Fall Short
California’s sweeping workers’ compensation reform is working for the most part. Some of the savings may not materialize, however, due to factors such as pharmacy costs and obesity among workers…MORE

Legal

Will Medical Marijuana Pose a Workplace Issue?
If a worker injures themself or someone else because they are under the influence or marijuana, yet they possess a legal card to do so, does this give them exemption…MORE

TRIA and Party Out of Bounds
David DePaolo explains that if Congress reauthorizes the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, there is less incentive to commit terrorism because the net effect is minimal disruption…MORE

Return-to-Work

Mom’s Working and Happy
Injured workers are 45 percent more likely to be treated for depression, according to a study by the CDC. David DePaolo examines the connection between work, work injury and mental health…MORE

About the author
David Wylie is the editorial coordinator at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites.

On the Road with Texas Mutual Recruiting

Travel report:  Austin to Waco, 101.2 miles

Weather: Unpredictable

Notable stops:  Baylor Stadium

By Stephanie Schumacher, Recruiting Consultant

By Stephanie Schumacher, Recruiting Consultant

Last July, I moved back to Austin after a 17-year stint in Dallas. In my brief time back in the Capitol City, I have driven north on IH-35 to Dallas 29 times.  Yes, 29 times.  The trip is a bit like a familiar old friend.  Instead of watching mile markers, I count landmarks as my own personal GPS.  Spots everyone knows well, like Inner Space Caverns, the Stagecoach Inn, the Starbucks up on the hill in Temple and the Elite Café, tell exactly how far away I am from my destination.

One of my favorite new landmarks is the enormous Baylor stadium.  I was fortunate to get a good look at it this time, as our travels brought the recruiting team to the Waco Convention Center to meet Baylor students eager to start their careers.  Considered a major economic catalyst, the 93-acre stadium site will be the largest project in the history of Central Texas.

This time around, the Texas Mutual recruiting team consisted of Shonda Brown of our Austin regional office, Tim Osmond from our Dallas regional office and Baylor graduate Scott Bonds, also from our Dallas regional office.

The Baylor career fair was first class.  I was particularly fascinated with the fun Baylor traditions the organizers incorporated into the event.  Lunch from Vitek’s featured the “Gut Pack,” a combination of beans, Frito’s, sliced sausage, jalapenos, pickles and onions.  Voted “Best College Eats in America,” the Gut Pack is a longstanding Baylor staple.  Not decadent enough?

Afterward, Dr. Pepper floats were served, an every-Tuesday tradition on campus.  Waco is the home of Dr. Pepper, and it was plentiful in every flavor.

Baylor had a professional photographer snapping pics of students for their LinkedIn profiles. I think we will borrow that idea in the coming weeks.

After the fair, I asked Dallas underwriter Scott Bonds what it was like to be back on campus as an employer.

“I was very excited to come back to Baylor to help spread the word about Texas Mutual,” said Scott. “It was a much more relaxed experience for me being on the other side of the table! I remember attending career fairs as a student and constantly wondering if I would find the right place. Luckily, I connected with Texas Mutual and become part of this amazing company.”

Scott went on to say, “We truly have so much to offer recent college graduates by being a stable workplace and a respected company. And how could I mention Texas Mutual without speaking about the people? When I was hired, everyone was so helpful and patient with me. I tried to communicate that to students who stopped by the booth.”

Scott and Tim did an amazing job explaining their roles to the students. Some even reached out to us in the days after to say they are now considering careers in underwriting.

Toward the end of the fair, we got a nice surprise when Ken Starr, Baylor’s president and chancellor, stopped by our booth.

About the author
Stephanie Schumacher is the corporate recruiter at Texas Mutual Insurance Company.  She was a founding partner and chief marketing officer at Platinum Select, LP, a medical staffing firm operating in all 50 states.  Platinum Select was recognized as the Fastest Growing Medical Staffing Company in the U.S. in 2006.  Stephanie spent five years traveling and collaborating on multiple startup concepts in Dallas.  She also served as a mentor for the City of Dallas’ Youth Today Entrepreneur Tomorrow program and was a board member for the West Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

There’s Safety – and Savings – in Numbers

By Jack Ogden, Senior Marketing Specialist

By Jack Ogden, Senior Marketing Specialist

I’ve been working closely with insurance agents for 16 years. I get a lot of satisfaction from telling them about products and services that benefit their clients. I get even more satisfaction when I tell agents about products and services that benefit their clients and them. Safety groups are a good example.

A safety group is a group of employers in a similar industry who purchase their workers’ compensation coverage together. Think of it as strength in numbers.

Each group member gets a premium discount based on the group’s overall premium, regardless of their individual premium size.  Safety groups are a great way for small employers to compete on a level playing field with large employers that have more money and resources.

Because safety group members operate in the same industry, their employees face similar on-the-job hazards. Insurance carriers can design custom safety services that address those unique hazards. By reducing workplace accidents, employers can further reduce their workers’ compensation costs. They may also have the potential to earn dividends from the carrier.

Safety groups are a good business proposition for agents, too. The premium discount that comes with joining a group is attractive to any business looking to cut operating costs. Once the client has experienced the custom workplace safety services and earned a dividend or two, they are more likely to stay in the group and, in turn, remain loyal to the agent.

In marketing, we spend a lot of time talking about differentiators. Safety groups are an opportunity for agents to set themselves apart from the competition. They also help small employers level the playing field with larger employers. Simply put, there’s safety and savings in numbers.

About the author

Jack Ogden is the safety group manager at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He is a certified insurance counselor with 16 years’ experience in workers’ compensation. Jack works closely with insurance agents to help them get the most value out of their partnership with Texas Mutual.

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