Monday, August 18, 2014

Another year at WCI

"The Workers' Compensation Conference." 

When you say that now days, no one asks "which one?" There are conferences on workers' compensation held all across the country. Most are state-sponsored conferences focused upon one jurisdiction's issues, concerns and programs. I have attended several and spoken at a few. They are varied in their length, scope and depth. There are invariably medical programs, legal programs, procedural programs, national and state programs.

Specific conferences abound. The WCI, however, provides a variety of topics and opportunities that are frankly mind-boggling. This afternoon, I will sit on a panel discussion called the SAWCA Regulator Roundtable. It will be similar to the program that SAWCA produced at its convention last month, but bigger. I will have the opportunity to hear what the news is from the Florida Division of Workers' Compensation. Both Director Tanner Holloman and Assistant Director Andrew Sabolic will be on the panel. 

SAWCA is the Southern Association of Workers' Compensation Administrators, a group that boasts 20 jurisdiction members. This is not just the southeast either, members include Arkansas, New Mexico, Texas, and more. Along with Mr. Holloman and Mr. Sabolic, I will hear perspectives from a multitude of other state's administrators from across the country. Outside of SAWCA, I am aware of no other opportunity to hear such a diverse group discuss today's challenges to workers' compensation. 

Perspectives will be delivered from Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and more. 

The discussion will be centered on the current issues facing workers' compensation across the country: carrier and employer bankruptcy, medical provision and costs, fraud and enforcement, regulation and legislation, litigation and adjudication, discovery for trial, impairment determinations and benefits, telecommuting, information and education and so much more. 

As compelling as this program will be, it will have to compete for attendees with programming designed for agents, for medical professionals, A National Trends program and a National Workers' Compensation Trends program. 

I look at the spectrum of programming available, and I am thankful that there is this caliber of education available right here in Florida. If you see me today around the Marriott World Center, say hello and stop to chat if you have the time. If you do not have plans for the afternoon, come by the Regulator Round table in Crystal Ballroom J-1 and see what is hot and what is not around the country in workers' compensation. 

Updated 081814, 4:00. The Roundtable continues. There have been in depth conversations about how Texas, Louisiana and Colorado have use tools to manage medical care provision and expense. Treatment guidelines and closed formularies have been described and generally praised. 

The discussions started with a presentation by Larry Karns, Kansas, regarding the recent bankruptcy of Hostess Cakes there. This is an interesting new perspective on the regulator's challenges when self-insured employers have issues with solvency. There was a somewhat similar situation in the northeast two years ago, with the Prime Tanning insolvency. These illustrate a potential for conflict between state agency processes and the bankruptcy processes managed by the Federal government. 

We have had an overview of the Tennessee transition to the administrative processes there. The Tennessee system used to use the state's court system for adjudication of workers' compensation claims. When Tennessee abandoned their use of the court system, that left only Alabama using a court of general jurisdiction for adjudication of workers' compensation. 

The Oklahoma opt-out has been discussed this afternoon. The question is when and where this issue will be raised legislatively next. There is discussion that Tennessee could be the next target for those who advocate this option. 


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