Friend, fellow blogger and political provocateur Joe Paduda last week wrote a post reviewing the results of his annual prognostications for the year. His Top Ten list has become a bit of a holiday tradition, as Paduda pens these predictions, and subsequent holiday period reviews, every year. Interestingly, I note that he did not write his 2016 predictions until February, perhaps giving him a slightly unfair advantage in this year's contest against himself. He could probably dramatically increase his odds if he waited until October or November, but what do I know? Even drafting them in February, his review this year shows he still managed to get 7 of his 10 predictions right.
Sounds a bit showy, if you ask me.
I, of course, being ever the clinger onner, for lack of a better or even grammatically correct term, have also been known to issue the occasional Top Ten Prediction piece from time to time. 2016 was one such year I engaged in the effort. I thought I would follow in the Paduda family holiday tradition of reviewing how well I did. Besides, this must be more palatable than the other Paduda Holiday tradition, singing Leninist songs in the public square.
Actually, that last point was unfair. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Joe's (much) better half earlier this year in Montana. An energetic and dynamic capitalist and real estate mogul in her own right, I asked Joe if she ever knocked over his Lenin statue with her Humvee when pulling in the driveway at night. But I digress. Back to my own divinations.
Prediction #1: It Will Be Discovered That the Concept of “Exclusive Remedy” Was the Result of a Typo - Researchers at Gunterman Polytechnica will unearth long forgotten foundational documents that show the creators of the Grand Bargain intended to establish workers' comp as an “Elusive Remedy”, rather than the previously believed Exclusive Remedy. Somewhat embarrassed, the industry will realize we've been getting it right all along. This stunning discovery will mean the Florida Supreme Court has no cases left to review, and has kept us waiting for nothing.
Assessment: I'm marking this one as mixed. I don't speak German, so I have no clue what researchers at Gunterman Polytechnica actually unearthed this past year. And you probably haven't heard, but the Florida Supreme Court finally cleared their docket (for now). Unfortunately, they don't speak German either, so they may have missed this important event.
Prediction #2: Medical Travel Will Become a Reality For Workers' Comp - Despite being labeled as a “non-starter” by self-appointed experts such as myself, Medical Travel will gain a strong albeit brief foothold in the workers' comp industry in 2016. Hundreds of our most demanding injured workers' will be schlepped to Turkishmaninacanstan to receive somewhat competent and exceedingly cheap medical care. The short lived effort will ultimately fail, however, when injured workers' attorneys insist their clients be given round trip tickets, instead of the one way fares they were originally provided.
Assessment: Wrong. Turns out Doctors in Turkishmaninacanstan refused to complete all the paperwork required of them by the workers' compensation industry, so the effort failed before it even started.
Prediction #3: ProPublica Will Issue a Scathing Report Revealing Workers' Comp Professionals Receive Salaries To Perform Their Jobs - The stunning revelation will send shockwaves across the country, as people demand that workers' compensation employee salaries “should instead be used to treat injured workers”. To appease the angry masses, salaries in the industry are eliminated. This frees up many dollars that are then distributed to injured workers, which makes everyone's job extremely easy. Lawyers voluntarily eliminate all fees. Doctors work for free. Pharmaceutical companies donate their drugs. Everyone continues working because it just feels so darn good. The year ends with everyone joining arms in the town square and singing Kumbaya while the Grinch and his dog return Christmas to the village.
Assessment: Wrong. This almost happened, but it turns out the band lost the sheet music to Kumbaya. It just wouldn't have been the same without it.
Prediction #4: The International Association of Industrial Accidents and Commissions, or the IAIABC, Will Get a New Name - After many years struggling with a difficult name and an almost impossible acronym, the Rebranding Committee of the IAIABC will announce a new name for the organization. The associations new moniker will be “Fred”. Rebranding Committee Chair Peter Federko will explain, “Streamlining our brand has been of utmost importance to our organization. The goal given our committee when it was established in 1977 was to work with expedience in order to accomplish this task.” Federko will explain that Fred doesn't actually mean anything, but it is something residents of Saskatchewan will be able to remember. In an unrelated action, Saskatchewan will be renamed “Bob”.
Assessment: Wrong. This came very close to fruition, but the entire effort failed when the Germans on the committee insisted it be “Friedrich”.
(This is an assessment that only members of the IAIABC Return to Work and Disability Management Committee will understand, but trust me, it is freakin' hilarious. If you really want to know the source, you have to read Return to Work 1, Return to Function 0)
Prediction #5: Terrorists Will Launch a Deadly Attack Endangering Thousands of Workers - A brazen attack by radical terrorists will target a large industrial complex with highly lethal chemical weapons. Unfortunately for the terrorists, they will choose to launch the chemical attack in northern New Jersey. No one notices.
Assessment: Right. Trust me, it happened. It is just that no one noticed.
Prediction #6: California Workers' Compensation Will Be Reformed - California legislators will once again fix the state's workers' comp system; simplifying it by adding 1,443 pages of new legislative code. A crowning achievement of this effort will be the IMRR, or the Independent Medical Review Review. This process will streamline and improve medical care by reviewing the reviews of the IMR reviewers. Experts declare this will lower costs even further by eliminating unnecessary procedures, mostly because patients will be dead by the time the procedures are approved.
Assessment: Wrong. Oh, they passed more reform crap, but damned if I can figure out what it is.
Prediction #7: The Injured Worker Will Be Removed From the System Entirely - Long an impediment to improving process and reducing costs, injured workers' will be removed from the claim process entirely in 2016. Culminating a move started some 20 years ago, this final step will bring true efficiency and cost savings to the workers' comp industry. Experts will note that continued consolidation and technological advancements have essentially rendered the injured worker obsolete, making them no longer relevant to the process.
Assessment: Wrong. Injured workers are still involved in the system, and have even been given a voice in the recent series of National Conversation meetings designed to improve industry weaknesses. You may even hear them mentioned, albeit rarely, at major conferences around the nation.
Prediction #8: Opioids Will Be Renamed Dopioids - Reflecting the sheer idiocy of those US medical professionals who continue to slather unneeded narcotics on an unsuspecting populace, opioids will be renamed dopioids to better reflect the intelligence level behind their continued overuse.
Assessment: Didn't happen. But it should.
Prediction #9: Workers' Compensation Will Be Federalized - In the last year of its final term, the Obama Administration will issue a series of Executive Orders that federalize the workers' compensation system. ProPublica reporter Michael Grabell will be appointed as Federal Workers' Compensation Czar. Things get off to a rocky start when all files are ordered transferred to Lois Lerners' hard drive, and all industry emails are routed through Hillary Clinton's bathroom. The National Conference is moved to a Motel 6 in Detroit. All other conferences are cancelled, as continuing education is deemed a waste of resources that could instead help injured workers. Employers will have to buy insurance via HealthCare.gov, meaning most employers will no longer be able to obtain coverage. The task of simplifying and standardizing statutory code is given to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS. Unable to immediately determine what the standards should be, the agency will manage to establish heavy fines for violating whatever procedure they may someday determine appropriate. Workers' comp professionals who fail to fully cooperate will be shot, which, ironically, will be a compensable injury.
Assessment: Surprisingly, wrong. I suspect the Presidential orders to initiate this action were lost when the Russians hacked wherever it was the orders were sent to. I am not sure about that, but I am certain that we are always supposed to blame the Russians.
Prediction #10: 100% of Bob's 2016 Predictions That Are Right Will Be Correct - And the rest won't. Explanations should not be necessary.
Assessment: Nailed it. Damn, I'm good.
So, by my loosey-goosey calculations, I got 7 wrong, 2 right and 1 tied. That is a huge improvement from my last Top Ten effort, back in 2012. Not too bad, considering the fluid nature of workers' comp these days.
Who knows, I might even be motivated to take another stab at it, and make predictions for 2017.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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