Cataclysm and Recovery

Laura Swift, Ronnie Rittenberry, Jerry Laws

No matter what bad things happen in the course of any given year —- and somewhere they always do and ever will -— when it comes time to turn the calendar and look ahead to a fresh 12 months, it’s hard not to feel hope and see the promise harbored in the year to come. For 2012, however, that innate optimism has, for some, been tainted.

Comp and Workplace Health Trends Worth Watching
Todd Hohn, CSP, vice president of Strategic Resources at PureSafety, said increased pressure on workers’ comp spend per company is a trend that started in 2011 and will continue in 2012 . “The insurance marketplace is finding it more difficult to turn a profit, so I think you will see fewer carriers in the work-comp space, and that’s going to force employers to look differently at how they manage their programs -— instituting price increases, larger deductibles, and other options,” he said.

Rising health care costs will continue to be driven by an aging and largely less healthy workforce, with employees bearing the burden of those increases, Hohn said. What does seem to be changing, he said, is the frequency of employees’ turning to workers’ comp as an avenue to cope with the ever-rising costs.

“The trend used to be that medical costs of a work-comp injury were about 45 percent of the total claim dollars; today, that’s in the 58 to 62 percent range, so that’s impacting overall costs,” Hohn noted. “As higher deductibles and other health care expenses are transferred to and being carried by the employee, I think we’re going to see more employees turn to workers’ comp as a way to take care of some of those issues. According to the most recent data from the National Council on Compensation Insurance, that’s already happening. Even though it was only a slight uptick, the most recent numbers show an increase in the frequency of work-comp claims, and I think that’s the first time in 10 years that that’s had an increase.”

Employers dealing with an aging workforce also will feel the impact caused by the retirement of experienced workers, causing what Hohn calls a “brain drain” and potentially disastrous consequences. On the positive side of things, he said, a number of solutions are helping employers combat such issues, the biggest of those being in the realm of analytics.

“Safety analytics is one area I see becoming more prominent,” he said. “Analytics in general are used today in forecasting the buying patterns for groceries, the need for hotel rooms, the rates of air fares, and so on —-I mean, the field is already prevalent. The movie ‘Moneyball’ was based off of analytics, showing how better decisions can be made around baseball players. Analytics has been used on the claims side for years, and now increasingly we see it being applied to prevention.

“So I think analytics will help in terms of predicting, or helping clients and customers predict when their next loss will be. I think that technology is going to play a big role, but so is just the aspect of health and wellness and the opportunity that exists around that. More companies will be migrating to occupational health practices in general and looking at the overall health and well-being of the employee to better manage workers’ comp, the idea being that it will have an impact on health care costs that the company is experiencing.” Read more at OH&S.