Middle market manufacturers often think workers’ compensation and disability are uncontrollable costs items. However, it’s more important than ever to change this way of thinking.
“Workers’ compensation is a significant variable cost element for manufacturers,” says Joe Galusha, managing director and leader for casualty risk consulting at Aon Risk Solutions. “It’s an area where controlling workplace injuries and their associated costs can actually become a competitive advantage.”
“We’re coaching our clients to take more responsibility over workers’ compensation and disability prevention, as well as claim management,” says Mike Stankard, managing director, Industrial Materials Practice, at Aon Risk Solutions. “If they do, there’s a significant opportunity to lower costs, and with that comes boosts in productivity, morale and many intangibles.”
Smart Business spoke with Galusha and Stankard about why workers’ compensation and disability management is crucial as well as cost containment and reduction strategies.
What’s the manufacturing landscape today?
Post-recession manufacturing activity is increasing, partially due to repatriation. But with that comes payroll growth, and then typically growth in workforce costs, which for manufacturing can largely be workers’ compensation and disability. There’s also negative trends related to the profile of the typical American worker that will compound the current challenges, so manufacturers that don’t put more effort into managing injuries and related costs may be at a disadvantage.
What workforce demographic trends make this management so essential?
About one-third of adults and almost 17 percent of youth are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity drives comorbidity and complexities in an individual’s health, creating a link to the cost of care and recovery from injury.
At the same time, workers 55 and older are expected to be nearly 20 percent of the workforce within a year. A number of physical impacts — decreased strength, more body fat, poorer visual and auditory acuity, and slower cognitive speed and function — come with aging and affect a workers’ ability to recover from injury. People over 60 also are much more likely to be obese.
These trends not only affect employment-related injury costs, but also productivity and business continuity costs when workers are absent for non-occupational injuries.
How can big data be used as a tool here?
There’s never been as much data available for a nominal cost — the challenge is leveraging it. You need the right data at the right time to compare it to the right things. When benchmarking against other companies or applying data sets to your environment, jurisdictions, evaluation base and the age of the benchmarking sources are important to ensuring your data is pure.
Although there are external sources, many times third-party administrators (TPA) or insurance carriers have already done a tremendous amount of data mining and predictive modeling. Businesses just need to know it’s there and to start using it to drill deeper into the cause of loss and the cost drivers of workers’ compensation.
What are some best practices for managing workers’ compensation and disability?
The secret is preventing injuries and creating a healthy workforce. But injuries will occur, so focus on responding quickly with the right amount of effort at the right time on the right claim. Predictive modeling can help identify the types of claims likely to become more costly.
Understand what’s driving your costs by doing a baseline assessment of cost drivers and utilizing benchmarking to drill down. Then, align the incentives of all internal and external parties — TPA, carrier, broker, and vendors involved in loss control and claims management — to focus on the cost-driving elements, using a dashboard to monitor performance. This creates a sustainable loss control and claims management effort.
Many organizations need to align all stakeholders — human resources, finance, legal, operations, etc. Also, combine the efforts of health and wellness with workers’ compensation and safety. A streamlined approach creates a healthier workforce, reducing injuries and their costs.
Joe Galusha is a managing director, leader for casualty risk consulting at Aon Risk Solutions. Reach him at (248) 936-5215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Stankard is a managing director, Industrial Materials Practice at Aon Risk Solutions. Reach him at (248) 936-5353 or email@example.com.
Hear more expert advice about workers' compensation and disability management in manufacturing by visiting our archived webinar.
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Settlement of a claim and a handicap reimbursement award are two cost containment strategies available to employers to manage claim costs and impact annual premiums. A settlement fixes the claim cost, which then allows the premium to reflect the settlement amount and possibly reduce the employer’s premium. If a handicap award is granted, a portion of the costs of the claim will be charged to the Surplus Fund and not to the employer’s experience.
“By removing costs from an employer’s experience, an employer may be able to lower its annual premium rate calculated by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), thus reducing its annual spend,” says Lisa O’Brien, director of rates and underwriting services for CompManagement, Inc. “Employers should always review these two very effective cost containment strategies when managing their workers’ compensation claims to make an impact to their bottom line.”
Smart Business spoke with O’Brien about these cost containment options available to employers in Ohio.
What is a settlement?
A settlement is an agreement among the employer, the injured worker and the BWC for a specific amount to settle one or more workers’ compensation claims. All three parties must agree to the settlement amount before a claim can be settled either in full, which settles all allowed conditions and benefits, or a partial settlement, which settles only certain conditions and/or benefits, either medical or indemnity (compensation).
What happens when a claim is settled?
When a claim is settled, the injured worker will receive a lump sum payment from the BWC. Settlement affords injured workers the freedom to manage their treatment priorities, on their timeline and on their schedule.
If the claim is settled for both the indemnity and medical portions, the injured worker will receive no additional compensation or medical benefits in the settled claim. If the claim is settled for either medical only or indemnity only, the injured worker can no longer receive the benefit type that has been settled (either medical or indemnity).
For employers, settlement can help manage costs and bring closure to a claim for their employee. Settling the claim removes reserves (indemnity, medical or both depending on the type of settlement) associated with the claim from all future rate-making. However, costs already paid out, plus the settlement amount, will continue to be charged to and impact the employer’s premium rate.
When will a settlement impact the employer’s premium?
Settlement of a claim will affect an employer’s premium rate only going forward. In order for a settlement to be included in the employer’s upcoming year’s rate, the fully executed settlement application (signed by both the employer and the injured worker) must be filed by May 15 for public employers or by Oct. 15 for private, state-funded employers.
These deadlines do not apply for settlements that occur through the court of common pleas. Common pleas settlement inclusions in the employer’s experience are based on the date the settlement is paid.
For a court of common pleas settlement to be included in an employer’s upcoming rates, the settlement must be paid to the injured worker before the applicable survey date, June 30 for public employers and Dec. 31 for private employers.
What is a handicap reimbursement?
The BWC encourages employers to hire and retain employees with handicapped conditions. To help offset the challenges those with handicaps often experience in the job market, the BWC offers the Handicap Reimbursement program as a means for employers to reduce their claim costs. Ohio law defines a handicapped employee as one who has a physical or mental impairment, whether congenital or due to injury or disease, whose impairment jeopardizes the person’s ability to obtain employment or re-employment. Also, the impairment must be due to one of the 25 eligible diseases or conditions that Ohio law recognizes.
The most commonly recognized conditions are arthritis, ankylosis, diabetes, cardiac disease and epilepsy.
When should an employer file an application for handicap reimbursement?
If an injured worker suffers a lost-time claim (eight or more days away from work) and a handicap condition is met, the employer can file a CHP-4 application with the BWC requesting reimbursement of claim costs charged. The employer must show the handicap is a pre-existing condition (prior to the date of injury) and that it either caused the claim or contributed to increased costs or a delay in recovery. Applications are reviewed and awards are granted by the BWC’s Legal Operations Department. Once awarded, the BWC will apply the handicap reimbursement award to chargeable claim costs, thereby reducing costs and possibly premium rates.
Private, state-funded employers must file handicap reimbursement applications by June 30 of the calendar year no more than six years from the year of the date of injury. Public employers must file handicap reimbursement applications by Dec. 31 of the year no more than five years from the year of the date of injury.
Claims with a handicap reimbursement can be settled and settled claims can continue to be considered for handicap reimbursement.
What is the typical range of handicap reimbursements awarded?
Per BWC public information, handicap reimbursements typically range between 5 and 100 percent, depending on the degree to which the handicap condition impacts the claim. On average, current public information shows a handicap award to be approximately 26.17 percent.
Lisa O'Brien is the director of rates and underwriting services for CompManagement, Inc. Reach her at (800) 825-6755, ext. 65441, or Lisa.Obrien@sedgwickcms.com.
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