Middleton, WI – Workers’ compensation must be guided by a focus on medical recovery and return to work. The industry must be aligned to encourage timely return to work, assist employers in maintaining a trained workforce and facilitate quality of life and financial stability of those injured at work. These goals were near unanimously agreed upon by more than 140 industry leaders during the IAIABC’s third National Conversation on the Future of Workers’ Compensation.
Attendees began with a discussion of the objectives of workers’ compensation in 2016 and beyond. Unlike previous sessions, only four objectives achieved over 90% agreement: Focus on outcomes, reduction of complexity, reduction of disputes, and encouragement of safety. One objective did not achieve a majority: only 48% agreed workers’ compensation should be more consistent across US jurisdictions.
During small group discussion, it was apparent defining and clarifying objectives including “broad coverage” and “equitable and adequate” was challenging. Without shared understanding of these objectives, it is impossible to measure if the system is succeeding. Discussion of these foundational principles is more important than ever, as workers’ compensation faces criticism and calls for corrective action by the US Department of Labor and OSHA.
When addressing how to remedy perceived inequities across jurisdictions there were two perspectives. Half believed shared objectives with performance reporting of system efficiency and effectiveness would be beneficial. The other half believed jurisdictions respond to the cultural and economic norms within their borders and it would be difficult to come to any meaningful consensus on shared objectives.
As the session was closing, one person commented, “I have been in the industry for more than 30 years and we have never had these discussions before.” It is clear there are diverse experiences and perspectives within the industry; however, everyone agreed the system must focus on medical recovery and return to work. If the future is guided by that goal, workers’ compensation will better serve employers, employees, and society.
Learn more about the National Conversations the IAIABC has held.