If You Need a Better Reason to Rebrand Workers' Comp to Workers' Recovery, This Is It.
Long-time readers will know of my almost decade-long campaign to rebrand the workers' comp industry. I have long believed that people entering the workers' compensation system for the first time focus on the wrong things as it relates to their case. On this site's discussion forum, they will leave a long description of their recent accident, and inevitably end the post with a common question; “How much will I make?” or “How big will my settlement be?” For many of them, that question should be, “How do I make certain I am being given the best care?” and “How can I get better and get back to living a normal life?”
It is not surprising, really. When you know absolutely NOTHING about workers' compensation, and you must complete a workers' compensation claim, see a workers' compensation doctor, and are assigned a workers' compensation adjuster, you are going to focus on the one word that means anything to you. Compensation.
Instead, if the industry was called Workers' Recovery, it would generate a different focus from the outset. And a news article I encountered from the Ipswich, MA, Local News this morning really drives that point home. Titled, “Top 6 tips to win your workers' compensation claim,” the article doesn't necessarily offer bad advice, especially if you are focused on the singular goal of compensation. But it is an extremely slanted article, that, while presented as news, could have easily been written by an injured workers attorney or on their behalf.
The missive uses the word “compensation” 20 times. Recovery is not mentioned, although the word “recovering” is used once. It contains such advice as “Report your injury as soon as possible” …. because “If not done in the required time period, it may render you ineligible for your compensation claim.” It advises the workers to “get medical treatment quickly” since, in addition to helping to recover quickly, it “serves as evidence that you were injured.” It further advises that if you delay getting treatment, the insurance company can use that “to weasel their way out of the compensation.”
It goes on to advise them to change doctors wherever allowed because an employer-selected doctor “can create a lot of problems because this causes a conflict of interest.”
I suppose the author never read the WCRI study that showed that not only medical and indemnity costs are higher with worker-selected care, but outcomes are worse as well. But this article really wasn't about getting better.
It was about compensation.
And if there is any doubt about that, one need only read tip number 6 for winning your workers' compensation claim. It is “Appeal The Denial Of Benefits - Insurance companies are all about making money. They will try everything they possibly can to get out of a compensation claim. If you appeal for the denial of benefits, you're definitely bound to get something rather than nothing.” The article ends with the advice, “Make sure you act quickly and keenly to avoid insurance fraud because you deserve the proper compensation with all its benefits.”
Too bad they neglected to mention anything about making sure you get proper medical care. Alas, all too often people purporting to speak for the injured worker don't really focus on that. Perhaps that is because their compensation is tied to that of the injured worker. Quality medical care can inhibit that when properly applied.
The sad truth is that many people, even professionals within our industry, often focus on compensation as the key element of what we provide. They don't realize that we are now a system of medical provision and that our primary focus should be restoring injured lives to whatever normalcy possible.
Rebranding the industry as Workers' Recovery would represent a significant paradigm shift for both injured workers and the industry professionals who serve them. Completing a Workers' Recovery Report, being sent to a Workers' Recovery Doctor, and having it managed by a Workers' Recovery Specialist would set a different tone for the process, both for the injured worker and people helping them along the way. The message would be overwhelming; you were injured, and your job is to recover the function and health that you have lost. Our job is to help you along that path. Compensation during that process is important, but ultimately returning you to a contributing role in society is an objective we must seek.
The differences could be stark. Workers' compensation will just continue to pay, while workers' recovery is what will again allow people to play.
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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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