Never Waste a Pandemic: The Blurry Vision Regarding Workers’ Comp 2020
In 2010 this website published a series of articles penned by well-known workers' compensation professionals conjecturing on what the industry might look like ten years down the road. Called the “Workers' Comp 20/20” series, they were intended to provide a “vision” of what the industry might look like and how it would operate in the year 2020.
Looking back on those articles today, it would appear our vision was a bit blurry. We apparently were in need of a fitting for a decent pair of glasses.
Not that they were entirely wrong. Predictions of more federal involvement through congressional action didn't pan out, but certainly in its latter years the Obama Department of Labor was rattling a saber over workers' comp. Predictions of technological enhancements in medicine and mobility were more accurate, although no one saw coming a 2 week adoption period of a “work at home” stationing of virtually our entire workforce.
In fact, no one saw a pandemic coming at all; an illness that would savage the economy, drastically cut premiums, close businesses, scatter an entire workforce, all while saddling the industry with unexpected presumptions, claims and costs that were never foreseen actuarily. Similarly, no one saw unprecedented rioting, looting and racial strife.
And, shocking as it may seem, not a single person foresaw the arrival of Asian Murder Hornets. There was also no mention of Canadian Flame Throwing Squirrels, which I am personally convinced will be arriving next month. No, it is fair to say that no one in 2010 really had an accurate expectation of what would be happening in 2020.
We were probably better off not knowing. At least we didn't lose sleep during the ten-year run up to the present.
There is no doubt that 2020 represents unprecedented challenges for the workers' compensation industry. More directly impacted than most other lines of insurance, we will be dealing with COVID and its aftermath long after it has become an ugly but distant memory for the rest of the nation. More importantly, the shift in presumptions and expectations surrounding this openly infectious disease could potentially alter the expectations and responsibilities of our industry permanently. Just as the adoption of coverage for occupational illnesses and diseases started changing our industry in the 1940's and 50's, the expectation of responsibility for workplace contagion of commonly communicable diseases is a game changer. 2020 is leaving the future of workers' comp looking somewhat grim, particularly on the short term.
Yet strangely, drawing on a quote from Apollo Thirteen Flight Director Gene Kranz, this might wind up being the workers' comp industry's “finest hour.” Just as with the ill-fated flight of Apollo 13, unprecedented challenges can in a time of crisis result in unparalleled advancement in knowledge, skill and aptitude. The industry's willingness to adopt new technologies, which has historically been a slow and painful process, can and has improved remarkably over the span of just a few weeks. We have learned to work more efficiently and are developing the ability to adapt on the fly in order to continue operations. We may not yet realize it, but the entire industry is breaking out of the 100-year-old mold of “how we've always done it,” not because we necessarily wanted to, but because we had no choice.
Change is hard. Unexpected change is even more difficult. Yet, as we navigate the unknown and continue moving forward, what will likely emerge after a few painful years is a slimmer, more nimble workers' compensation system. A system more willing and able to adapt, whose services and ability will be greatly enhanced by ubiquitous technology and transparent communications.
No one saw the events of this year coming. But we should embrace the positives that will emerge from its reality. As an industry, workers' compensation will not let this pandemic go to waste.
There have been 1 comments made!
You must Login or Register in order to read and make comments!
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.
Bob has a couple unique personality characteristics. He firmly believes that everyone has the right to his (Bob's) opinion, and while he may not always be right, he is never in doubt. Enter at your own risk, and like all of our blog areas, we encourage you to read the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.
We're not responsible for this guy.....
Bob is an accomplished speaker for the workers' compensation industry. He is available for conferences, corporate events, children's birthday parties and Bar Mitzvahs. You may access his Speakers Brief here.