Last week, the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) held its 105th convention in Pittsburgh. The IAIABC is an association of workers’ compensation jurisdictional regulatory agencies and industry stakeholders who find solutions to reduce harm and aid recovery from occupational injuries and illnesses. If you’re interested in workers’ compensation policy, regulation and administration, this is the organization with which to engage. I attended last week’s session and a few of the sessions and discussion topics were of particular interest to me as we consider 2020 and beyond.
Learning from regulators
During the Heads of Delegation and Associate Members’ Forum, we were able to engage with 29 United States delegations and regulators from Germany, Australia, Russia and Canada. This open dialogue between regulators and payers and service providers is especially interesting and always well-attended. Topics addressed were vast, covering state goals, initiatives, opportunities and challenges. Multiple states talked about how they are advancing technology capabilities and data analytics in anticipation of offering improved insights into accident trends across job class and business sectors. Anna Hui, Director of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, who has responsibility for workers’ compensation in the state, offered one of the more forward-thinking views on evolving technology in support of lifting up businesses’ understanding of claims trends in support of safer work environments.
The key takeaway was that it’s important for regulators to look beyond silos, both internally and externally. Through collaboration, state agencies can work towards common goals by sharing information and resources, and updating technology to keep up with standards. Ms. Hui also expressed how beneficial it is for regulators to work with their constituents to make sure the agency is meeting their needs.
Because the November 2018 election resulted in a number of newly appointed regulators – many with different views than their predecessor regulators – being engaged with organizations such as IAIABC helps us understand the regulatory environment and anticipate impact to claims processes and costs, regulatory oversight and policy considerations. Sedgwick will continue to watch regulatory trends and inform our clients, as well as represent employers’ interests in discussions with those regulators influencing policy change around the country.
During the IAIABC conference, Out Front Ideas with Kimberly and Mark, which I co-host, lead a panel conversation on permanent impairment with guests Abbie Hudgens, Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, Dave Sosnow, American Medical Association, and David Torrey, Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. The use of AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, Sixth Edition has created controversy in many states. The legal challenges around using the Sixth Edition vary by state and are often around the way in which the Guides are implemented, interpreted by the reviewing physician, and the Guide’s impact on permanency ratings which vary from past editions. The AMA is creating a feedback loop and a working group to address the challenges with the Sixth Edition and maintaining open dialogue on improvements rather than working towards a Seventh Edition of the Guides. Consensus by the attendees is this is a good decision by the AMA and a positive next step for those states using the Guides as a permanent impairment rating tool.
The expansion of presumptive bills across the country was a hot topic at the convention. These bills often apply to peace officers, deputies, firefighters and rescue workers, and covered conditions may include post-traumatic stress disorder or, more broadly, a mental health condition manifested out of an event. Public entities and their business partners are especially interested in this conversation due to additional exposure and retroactive implications, as applicable. What remains to be seen is whether this type of legislation will eventually extend to other employees in the public or private sectors, such as nurses, teachers, private company EMTs or others on the front lines in crisis situations. Desiree Tolbert-Render, Sedgwick’s AVP, National Technical Compliance, recently published a blog and an article in our edge magazine recapping the latest developments in first responder legislation, and we will continue to watch this trend.
Contractor vs. employee status
Another hot topic delegates and IAIABC members are grappling with encompasses the growing concerns and challenges with contractor versus employee status. Today, more than 35% of the U.S. workforce is part of the gig economy. Working as an independent contractor can include driving for rideshare companies, freelance writing, project-based assignments and more. But new legislation has been introduced that has the potential to impact how members of the gig economy will be classified, paid, insured, compensated for injuries, etc. California is in the process of implementing Assembly Bill 5, which was the focus of a blog published in September by Bill Zachry, Senior Fellow for the Sedgwick Institute, and other states have begun to look at similar legislation.
There is a little something for everyone at IAIABC and across the organization’s committees, including medical issues, disability and return to work, dispute resolution, associate member council, and electronic data integration council and systems committees. Sedgwick appreciates the connections we make with regulators and other leaders in the industry through IAIABC, and we will continue to carry the knowledge gained from our discussions last week to influence, educate and inform our clients and the industry at large as trends develop. To learn more about IAIABC, visit IAIABC.org or reach out to Desiree or I in the comments section here.