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Business Insurance comp event addresses opioids and aging workers

<em>Business Insurance</em> comp event addresses opioids and aging workers

Workers compensation experts explained how to control workers comp costs related to opioid management and the aging workforce during Business Insurance's fifth annual Workers Comp & Safety Virtual Conference on Wednesday.

In his keynote speech, William Zachry, vice president of risk management for Safeway Inc., talked about the top 10 cost drivers for workers comp claims.

Mr. Zachry's recommendations included connecting utilization review and bill review processes for comp claims, using pre-employment screenings to avoid placing workers in jobs that they are physically unfit to perform, and reducing litigation in comp cases by showing an interest in injured workers.

“Calls from the supervisor or owner of the company asking if the injured worker understands his or her benefits, if the benefit notices were confusing or if the medical care is good, and if there is anything that the employer can do the for the employee (can have) a massive effect on reducing litigation,” Mr. Zachry said.

In another presentation, Kimberly George, senior vice president and senior health care advisor for Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc., talked about the challenges and opportunities that go hand-in-hand with the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act.

In a presentation on controlling the use of opioids in workers comp, speakers discussed guidelines for prescribing such medications and the use of prescription formularies to prevent overprescribing.

Dr. Steven Feinberg, chief medical officer for Feinberg Medical Group in Palo Alto, California, said the use of opioids may be appropriate for some patients, but it's best to avoid long-term use of such drugs.

Alex Swedlow, president of the Oakland, California-based California Workers' Compensation Institute, and Vennela Thumula, policy analyst with the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Workers Compensation Research Institute, presented evidence that closed prescription drug formularies, which have been successful in reducing workers comp medical costs in Texas and Washington state, could help reduce workers comp medical costs in other states.

While older workers are less likely to be injured on the job, those who are hurt often take longer to return to work at full capacity, presenters said in another session.

David Barry, senior vice president and national technical director for casualty risk control for Willis North America Inc., said older workers made up 26% of all fatal accidents in 2005, yet they represented only 16% of the workforce at the time.

During the session, Debbie Villegas, human resources manager for Jordan Foster Construction L.L.C., said it's difficult to replace knowledgeable older workers, so some employees who have retired from the company have actually returned to manage projects as consultants.

Lance Perry, senior ergonomist and professional engineer for Zurich Services Corp., said ergonomics is key to keeping older workers safe and healthy. He added that safety managers, productivity managers and quality managers have to work together to identify solutions that will accommodate the physical, physiological and psychosocial changes of an aging workforce.

Nearly 900 risk managers, safety managers, human resources and benefit managers, brokers and third-party administrators, among other attendees, registered for the free online event.

You can view the event on demand online at

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