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Reporting from the DMEC conference


Employers are not abandoning their disability management and return-to-work programs despite the continuing recession and a reduction in claims, speakers told the Disability Management Employer Coalition conference being held in Portland, Ore.

Instead, employers are refocusing their efforts.

The speakers said a year ago, when they first planned to discuss the economy's impact on claims at this year's DMEC conference, they expected claim filings would increase while financial challenges would force employers to trim their disability-management efforts.

Employees fearful of losing their jobs and income were expected to file more claims while disability durations increased

But that is not happening.

NCCI Holdings Inc. recently reported that work comp claims will decrease because of the recession. Insurer data is also showing that short-term disability claims are flat to falling, said Betsy Robinson, director of strategic program development for Intracorp, a work comp and disability medical management company.

Employers, meanwhile, are growing optimistic their companies will survive the recession, said Gail Krinsky, a senior vp and disability management expert at Marsh Inc. So employers are launching transitional-duty programs they developed a year ago, but then suspended because of economic uncertainty.

They are trimming unnecessary costs and support staff from their disability management programs. But they are also asking vendors for predictive data to help stem high-cost claims.

“We are seeing an increase in companies asking us to look at disability management anew,” Ms. Krinsky said.

DMEC's annual conference is being held in Portland. It's a wonderful city with plenty of entertainment, great Pacific Northwest cuisine, efficient public transportation, and a young, creative population that embraces the bicycle for transportation.