What a difference a Board makes

“Look not mournfully into the past, it comes not back again. Wisely improve the present, it is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future without fear and with a manly heart.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” — Duke Ellington

Whether you state it eloquently or simply, BWC was not in a good place in 2007. The reputation and hard work built by thousands of honest, hard-working employees over numerous years was undone overnight by a handful of bad actors. The business community and injured workers alike had ample opportunity to question the financial health and direction of BWC.

Today BWC is a much different place. Rates have been lowered repeatedly. The private sector base rates in fact are more than 20% lower than even five years ago. The public sector base rates are the lowest in more than 30 years. Businesses have benefited from $2 billion in rebates and another $1.2 billion in credits to help move to a modernized billing system. Injured workers are benefiting from a pharmacy management system that is better coordinating care and reducing the chance of addiction or overdose of narcotics. They are benefitting from pilot programs that are better coordinating care, including by addressing aggravating conditions.

All Ohio workers are benefitting from safer workplaces. BWC has tripled its safety grant program to $15 million annually, and is investing millions to better train firefighters and fund university research on a myriad of safety topics.

And it is doing these things with a great majority of the same people who were here in 2007.

So what’s the difference? One big part of this turnaround is the creation of—and the direction provided by—the BWC Board of Directors.

Since first meeting in August 2007, the Board has, first and foremost, established itself as a strong, professional board, with the personnel and governance measures necessary to provide direction rooted in real-world expertise. To its original Audit, Investment, and Actuarial committees—each requiring a board member with expertise in that area—the Board quickly added a Governance Committee in addition to a  Medical Services and Safety Committee. Each month, the Board of Directors meets to conduct its business. Particularly telling of the professionalism of its members though, attendance at ALL the committee meetings, held the day before the Board meeting, is almost always close to 100 percent. Despite there being no requirement to attend any more than your assigned committee, the board members typically choose to do so. This helps ensure that the work of those committees benefits from the input of the various directors, who each represent a particular interest or area of expertise, ranging from small business to injured workers to investments.

Having just marked its 100th meeting, we sat down with two directors who have been there from the start. David Caldwell, currently legislative coordinator and assistant director of United Steelworkers State of Ohio District 1, and a career member of the United Steelworkers of America, represents the Executive Committee of the AFL-CIO. Kenneth Haffey, chair of the Audit committee, is a partner in the CPA firm of Skoda, Minotti and Co. in Mayfield Village.

 

BWCBlog: What were your initial impressions walking into the first board meeting?

KH: What am I doing here?  How is this group ever going to get along?

DC: Apprehension was quickly replaced with a realization of the enormity of the tasks that lay ahead.  The size of the spectator crowd, at that time, overflowed into additional meeting rooms on the second floor.

 

BWCBlog: What did you see as your biggest challenge in the early days of the board?

DC: Getting back, or maybe establishing for the first time, the trust of our stakeholders and the public at large.

KH: Learning about the operations of BWC. I was comfortable with my role as the Audit committee chair, I just didn’t realize what else I’d be involved in.

 

BWCBlog: How would you describe your stakeholders’ view of the board back then?

KH: Skeptical. The BWC was just coming out of a lot “bad stuff.”

DC: Distrust on a massive scale, far worse than I was ever aware of at that time.

 

BWCBlog: How do you think this board compares to other boards?

DC: It is my belief that each member of the Ohio BWC Board, from the beginning, has been the “gold standard” for any board of directors public or private.

KH: Comparable to corporate boards I work with and have been on over the years, except that our members attend all the committee meetings, which doesn’t happen in the private sector.

 

BWCBlog: How would you describe your stakeholders view of BWC now?

KH: I think they see us as a viable governing body that has made and continues to make a difference to injured workers, business owners and BWC employees.

DC: Much improved. I suspect there is always some skepticism, but from what I hear the opinion of BWC is better than the “government” as a whole.

 

BWCBlog: What are you personally most proud of over the past 8 years?

DC: I’m most proud of feeling I was, in at least some small way a part of re-establishing public confidence on Ohio BWC.

KH: Being recognized as a board who put politics and personal agendas aside and made the right decisions for the right reasons all along.

 

BWCBlog: If you had one piece of advice for other workers’ compensation boards, what would it be?

KH: Do not lose sight that you have a “duty-of-care” for the injured workers and business owners alike.

DC: Stay the course, with a constant eye toward improving. Our challenges are always changing.

 

Blogger panel inspires discussion on weighty workers’ comp issues

kendraKendra DePaul, Special Assistant to the BWC Administrator

It only makes sense that BWC’s blog would feature a post about the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference’s annual bloggers’ panel. Every year, this is a favorite event of the week, where the best-known bloggers in workers’ compensation share their perspectives and reflections on the future of the industry.

Blogger PanelThis year’s panel included David DePaolo, J.D., President and CEO of WorkCompCentral.com and author of DePaolo’s Work Comp World blog; Joseph Paduda, Principal at Health Strategy Associates and author of Managed Care Matters blog; Rebecca Shafer J.D., President, Amaxx Risk Solutions Inc. and author of ReduceYourWorkersComp.com blog; and Robert Wilson, President and CEO, WorkersCompensation.com and author of the From Bob’s Cluttered Desk blog. The panel was moderated by Mark Walls, VP Communication & Strategic Analysis for Safety National.

The group is a diverse one in terms of expertise and perspective, which lead to a lively and interesting discussion.

Not surprisingly, the first issue to come up was the “Grand Bargain” of workers’ compensation and the on-going discussion about whether the system is working as it should.

Here in Ohio, BWC was established in the Ohio Constitution in 1912 and has been providing workers’ compensation to Ohio employers and employees for over 100 years. The Ohio Constitution clearly defines the purpose of BWC:  to provide “compensation to workmen and their dependents, for death, injuries or occupational disease, occasioned in the course of such workmen’s employment.” And on the employer side, it was established that any employer who pays into the system “shall not be liable to respond in damages at common law or by statue for such death, injuries or occupational disease.” It set up the very fundamentals of the “Grand Bargain.”

Over the past 100 years, BWC has evolved but it is safe to say the employees of BWC still work each and every day to assure that injured workers are properly care for and that employers are getting valuable protection for the premiums they pay.

The overall thoughts of the panel on this subject were that there are always improvements to be made to the system, and that we should get mad when errors are made, but overall, most people in the system are trying to do the right thing. This could be evident in the fact that over 2,000 people gathered at the conference to think and learn about ways to improve the system.

And here in Ohio, it is not any different. We are constantly looking for ways to better serve our customers, the employers and injured workers of Ohio.

In that same vein, the conversation then turned to where the bloggers thought the industry would be in 10 years. I think everyone in the workers’ compensation industry, including BWC, has realized that the market is changing and we have to be aware of what is on the horizon.

Earlier this year, BWC managers and supervisors heard from Karen Furtado from Strategy Meets Action about the technology changes that are in our future. Thinking about the fact that 10 years ago, there were no smart phones, makes you wonder what kind of technology will be around in 2025. She talked about how wearable devices, new payment technology and drones could change the industry in the future.

The bloggers talked about similar changes. Bob Wilson said that robots and automation will change the types of claims we will have going forward. And that he is already seeing changes in how we use technology to monitor the health of an individual.

David DePaolo talked about the changes surrounding independent contractors, such as Uber drivers, and about the need to protect these people as well. As industry forces change the way we define employees, he believes the industry is well-suited to provide solutions to all sorts of employment relationships.

Another common theme was the blurring of lines between healthcare and workers’ compensation. The data has shown that you cannot simply ignore other conditions of an injured worker outside of workers’ compensation. We know those conditions affect the outcome of a claim and we need to challenge ourselves to find ways to improve the general health of the customers we serve. BWC is already looking at some of these issues through its Enhanced Care Pilot.

You know, when I tell people I work in workers’ compensation, I know they probably think it is the most boring job in the world. But it’s not. It is a dynamic, challenging landscape, where you have the ability to help real people. Is there a better way to spend our days?

I am the subject matter expert

kendraReporting from the National Workers’ Compensation & Disability Conference: Encouraging, empowering and inspiring!

By Kendra DePaul, Special Assistant to the BWC Administrator

On Tuesday, over 500 women, and a few men, gathered in Las Vegas for the 2nd Annual Women in Workers’ Compensation event.

wiwc panelThe mission of the Women in Workers’ Compensation organization is to encourage, empower, inspire and support women in the workers’ compensation industry in their professional development and career growth.

You may or may not be surprised to learn that women do not hold as many leadership roles as men in the insurance industry, and especially in workers’ compensation. The purpose of the event was to encourage women to take leadership roles in the industry, but also to simply understand the difference between men and women in communication.

Margaret Resce Milkint, Managing Partner of The Jacobson Group talked about how
women need to do a better job at taking credit for the work that they do. Women have a tendency to speak in “we” language instead of “I” language. And that we tend to caveat our statements by starting them with “I am not the expert, but…”

Reflecting on this, I think it is great advice for both men and women to be confident in our ability and recognize that for many of the things we work on, we are the subject matter experts and there is nothing wrong with saying as much.

Another topic of conversation was that we have to be willing to take advantage of career opportunities that come our way, even if we don’t think we are ready. Yes, there will always be risk in taking a new role, but if we all waited until we felt we were truly ready, we would never make the move. And many of the speakers spoke about some of best lessons they ever learned, were from times things didn’t go exactly as planned.

Although I have heard many of these things before, the event was a good reminder that  we each have what it takes to move our careers forward, if we so choose. Although there are times when we may doubt our abilities or make mistakes, we have to remain confident and move forward, because we are the leaders of tomorrow.