Legislative and regulatory reforms in big states like California and Florida have dramatically decreased losses for insurers and cut premiums for employers, while loss control, safety initiatives, and return to work measures have cut down the frequency of claims. But experts keep warning us about soaring medical costs and wildcards like terrorist attacks and other catastrophes that threaten the profitability of the workers' comp line.
So employers are getting serious, real serious, about reducing medical costs, using every means at their disposal, i.e., prediction, prevention, and containment. It's well known, for example, that obesity in employees corresponds to higher injury rates and health care costs overall. Some employers are using the "stick rather than the carrot" approach by making obese employees pay if they don't slim down. The psychological forces behind worker injuries have inspired some employers like Microsoft to use a holistic approach of balancing work and private life to deal with behavioral health issues among its employees and their families.
Even though return to work principles have been around for a long time, it's only fairly recently that return to work has been given the attention that it deserves. It's a no-brainer that getting an injured worker back to work as soon as possible significantly reduces workers' comp and medical costs. As one writer, Peter Rousmaniere, at Risk & Insurance so eloquently put it, "It's return to work, stupid." Dr. Jennifer Christian, President of Webility Corporation (http://www.webility.md/), has developed a 60 summits project this past year to spread the word about disability prevention programs to reduce an employer's workers' comp costs by helping employees stay at work and return to work after an injury or illness. For more information, see http://www.saw-rtw-californiasummit.com/.
The 60 Summits Project is now a non-profit corporation which is propagating the new work disability prevention across North America -- 50 US states and 10 Canadian provinces. (See www.60Summits.org,) As of now, we have catalyzed summit planning groups in 8 states (OR, NM, CA, ND, MN, AZ, OH, FL). Three Summits have been held; North Dakota is up next with 4 meetings this month (September). Courtesy of our charter North American sponsor, Prudential Financial, we are preparing to enter another 5 jurisdictions in the next several months. We are now holding exploratory meetings in Quebec, Michigan and Massachusetts. Jennifer Christian, MD, MPH, Chair, 60 Summits Project.