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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Workers Compensation Research Institute Conference 2007 – Boston MA


WCRI has been “researching” or generating data for the Industry for 24 years. The introductory remarks were offered by Robert Steggert, Marriott International, Inc., Chair WCRI Bd of Directors. The central topic of the entire program has been medical costs and how to contain them and the consequential effect upon medical claims, temporary benefits and permanent benenfits.

Preliminary research reports were offered on “The California Reforms; Monitoring Impact” by Richard Victor, WCRI. Victor has testified in the past in support of “reforms” before Congress of the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. The data presented was a “snapshot” of data from post the 2003 reforms and preliminary data from recent legislative changes. Basically it demonstrated a significant drop in medical services especially in chiropractic care and physical therapy and physical medicine. The data sources were medical bills, telephone interviews of hundreds of injured workers (650 to 750), access to medical care, utilization and costs and timing.

The bottom line is that WCRI is not releasing final data that they have available for recent reforms. The trend, however, is toward a dramatic decrease in medical care, and the decrease in the numbers of claims filed. While this will probably result in the decrease in the amount of PPD (permanent partial disability) it is not something that they will publicly admit at this time. They do admit that there is decrease in the number of satisfied injured workers who have serious medical conditions.

The research concerning “The Texas Reforms” was obviously apparent. There are no lawyers in that system and the adversarial system for all intents and purposes eliminated. Texas remains as the highest number of chiropractic visits of any State. See the recent blog report.

The “Lessons from a Stable and Lower Cost State” [Oregon] demonstrated a system where the presenters: Bob Shiprack, Orgeon Building and Construction Trades Council and Jerry Keene, defense WC atty, have engineered a system to eliminate lawyers completely by eliminating litigation. Oregon is now 42nd in the country in WC rates and premiums have not gone up for 18 years while costs have declined 50%. The Oregon system allows treating physicians to initially make recommendation concerning PPD which generates a RTW package [Return to Work] by actively allowing the employer to participate in terminating TDB or PPD. The ADR (Alternate Disputes Resolution) program provides for a 10% counsel fee. The EAIPO [employee accident and injury program] allows for a 50% wage subsidy and theoretically acts as a safety net following a “lump sum” payment. Shipwreck’s philosophy is to first “Starve All the Lawyers.” That was accomplished in Oregon. See also another blog report on Oregon.

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