[FLJCC] Florida Workers' Comp Adjudication | By Judge David Langham | Thursday, February 8, 2018

The world is changing around us. I had an opportunity to deliver a lecture to college students recently, and we veered from "what is so" into the "what could be." I cannot see the future of course, but I have spent a fair number of hours studying the past. The reality is that markets and occupations will be disrupted by technology and change. And, while we have all experienced this over recent decades, the pace of change in increasing. So, the main points I made with the students were:

Change will happen. 
You cannot prevent change 
Change will affect you 
Successful people will accept and adapt 
The most successful people will leverage change 

I remain unconvinced that there was unanimous acceptance of these points. There were those whose faces seemed to read incredulity and doubt. Some are counting on graduating from college and entering careers that will provide them 40 years of sustenance and a comfortable retirement. They have seen that path traveled by their older family members, and they seemingly cannot doubt they will travel a similar trajectory. It is entirely possible that they are right and I am wrong; it is at least worthy of discussion. 

In March, the Workers' Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) will produce its 34th Annual Issues and Research Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. The last time I attended, the town was covered with snow and some sidewalks were impassable as they strove to pile and store it. I am hopeful that 2018 will offer a warmer, more welcoming climate. I will speak on a panel this year, titled "The World of Work is Changing - Fast. Are you Prepared?" It will be Friday, March 23, 2018 at 11:05, and will be the climactic conclusion to the two-day event. 

There will be four speakers on a panel, moderated by none other than WCRI CEO John Ruser (@John_Ruser). I am fairly confident that he had just been named CEO when I last attended the WCRI Conference in 2015. I seem to recall the significant snowfall precluded his attendance that year, and that we met thereafter at a more temperate opportunity in Florida. But this will be my first experience at WCRI since John took over. 

The panel for this symposium on change will include Denise Algire of Albertsons, Charlie Kingdollar of General Reinsurance, Steve Tolman of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, and me (@fljcc). And, I am hopeful that in the weeks leading up to this discussion, there might be some discussion on the "Twittosphere" regarding your perceptions of the change technology promises for our future, and your predictions of whether technology will deliver on those promises. Each speaker's Twitter account is listed, and they are all listed together at the end for ease of cutting and pasting. 

Denise Algire is the Director of Risk Initiatives for Albertsons, a grocery and pharmacy retailer founded in 1939 in Idaho. The company is operating in 35 states today under "banners" including Albertsons, Safeway, Super Saver, Supervalu, and Shaw's. With over 2,000 stores and about 265,000 employees, this retailer touches the lives of a vast diversity of Americans that are employees, suppliers, and customers. 

Ms. Algire has written regarding the findings of an extensive survey regarding "cost-drivers, claim trends, workforce demographics," and more. The Study provides insight into both change and perceptions. She has also been involved in an evolution (revolution?) in claims practices dubbed the "advocacy-based claims model," a process built upon a foundation of treating the injured worker as an individual, a person, and a consumer of services that are workers' compensation. Ms. Algire's Twitter feed (@denisezoe‏) and LinkedIn include technology, medical care, disruption and the Opioid crisis. 

Charlie Kingdollar is the Vice President and Emerging Issues Officer at General Reinsurance Corporation (GenRe). GenRe is involved in underwriting risk through reinsurance in the markets of life, health, property, and casualty insurance. Thus, there is an interest in the workers' compensation marketplace, but as a part of a more generalized spectrum of risk assessment and reinsurance. Obviously, his company’s products touch a vast assortment of Americans who purchase such coverage for themselves (health, life, auto) or who enjoy the benefits when others purchase such coverage as liability, workers' compensation, health, etc. 

Mr. Kingdollar has been a predictor of effects technology may impose on the insurance business. This is a complex topic for insurance because technology and artificial intelligence are changing the manner in which insurance is sold and managed (internal change), and it is changing the world of risks that are insured and affecting the definitions and demand for insurance (external change). He has prognosticated on one example, the driverless car, which "will reduce frequency, severity, and likely overall auto premium" in coming years. Mr. Kingdollar's Twitter feed (@ckingdollar) and LinkedIn activity are brimming with news stories regarding technology and disruption. 

Steve Tolman is President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is a group in which represents various Central Labor Councils, affiliate unions, and their members. It is involved in striving for policies and goals favorable to workers and constituency groups that promote a labor focus. His Twitter feed (@StevenATolman) is focused on collective bargaining, increasing the minimum wage and collective bargaining issues. 

Mr. Tolman has been a witness to change, having begun his career working for railroads, including Amtrak, which have seen disruption from deregulation and competition. He has participated in regulatory change serving in both the Massachusetts House and Senate for over a decade. Mr. Tolman's foci included critical workers' compensation issues such as "addictive pain medication and the opiate epidemic." His role in representing workers is intertwined in what disruption will do to (for?) the American workforce. 

And, at the far end of the stage will be the lone voice from Florida (or the south at all, frankly), yours truly. I have been blogging, speaking and writing for more years than I am willing to admit. I recently calculated that I have now delivered over 1,000 professional presentations or lectures, and I am honored to participate in this one. 

I have written about investment in technology, automation, innovation, job loss, obsolescence, disruption, adaptation, and government response. I am not as prolific as some, but I have published well over 800 blog posts. I believe the fact is that technology is not coming, it is here. In my own lifetime, I have witnessed the demise of the "typing pool," the disappearance of the "pay phone," the advent of the "Internet" and "robotics," and more. I remember an age without cell phones or home computers. Not to put to fine a point on it, I remember cars without airbags, seatbelts, or even a radio. I also remember the first airbag option, and various dire predictions about how it would never work, or sell for that matter. 

Technology is here. It has its hooks in us in a multitude of ways, and it is infusing itself into our very existence. We are, consciously or not, adapting to it, craving it, and allowing it to change how we both perceive and interact (or not) with our world. 

In Boston, we will attempt to address the issues that this all poses for us. We will remain conscious that we may individually make choices about artificial intelligence, robots, and other technology, but the world around us will evolve with or without our individual permission. The decisions of others, our employers, our peers, and the generations that follow will support evolution even if we individually elect a "head in the sand" posture. This panel will address how we see technology impacting and disrupting our future, our work, and our leisure. 

And, we will attempt to provide insight as to how these changes will impact this "little corner" of the world that we call workers' compensation. There are implications for workplace safety, elimination of jobs, creation of new careers, demand for training and skills, and much more. Certainly, the technology revolution and disruption will affect our world of workers' compensation. 

Notably, this "little corner" is much ignored and often maligned. But in honesty, it is not little by any stretch of the imagination. This little corner was paying out over $60 billion annually when I last studied it. This little corner is bigger in annual revenue than the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and NASCAR combined. Workers' compensation may be unassuming and quiet in the grand scheme of things, but it is undoubtedly "huge." See Langham, Where did it Come From, Where is it Going, and How "Huge" is it Anyway, Lex and Verum, June 2014, p.7-14. 

We who study comp gather, periodically, to discuss workers' compensation. There are a handful of organizations striving to build understanding and comprehension of this little corner and all it affects. I have been honored to work with the best of these, including WCI, NAWCJ, NCCI, WCRI and more. And, I look forward to Boston in March, and the opportunity to share perspectives, thoughts, and more with a national audience focused on greater understanding and better performance of this little corner of the world, workers' compensation, which we call home.

Tweet us to raise or discuss issues: @John_Ruser @denisezoe‏ @ckingdollar @StevenATolman @fljcc. See you in Boston or on the Twittosphere!

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