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More than half of insurer executives see adapting to the changing workforce and workplace as the top challenge for 2019 and express concern over new and changing risks associated with an aging workforce, unskilled workers, independent contractors and new technology, according to a report issued by the National Council on Compensation Insurance on Wednesday.
Boca Raton, Florida-based NCCI polled senior executives at more than 100 workers comp insurers nationwide in September 2018, narrowing industry concerns down to five issues, with profitability, medical costs, the legislative and legal environment, and the future of comp also in the lineup.
Executives gave insights on possible solutions for addressing a changing workforce. For example, they proposed that changes could be managed by “underwriting and analytics, by developing new products, and by adapting pricing and underwriting,” according to the NCCI report.
Executives also mentioned “reaching out with public campaigns and employer education programs to promote a safer workplace.”
On the financial front, the executives surveyed reported concerns “about their ability to maintain profitability and premium levels that may be affected by changes in loss cost trends, legislation, and the economy.”
“Many insurers are taking a hard look at premium levels and underwriting to remain competitive,” the report states. “Some are seeking opportunities to develop new products and new markets. Others are putting tighter controls on expenses and looking for greater efficiencies through technology.”
Medical costs, advances, and determining appropriate medical care are another concern, mentioned by more than 25% of those interviewed, according to NCCI. “While rising costs remain a concern, insurers have somewhat ‘baked them in’ to their expectations,” the report states.
“Industry stakeholders closely monitor medical advancements to help maintain appropriate care for injured workers and improve return-to-work outcomes,” the report states. “Some insurers are introducing a variety of programs that go well beyond just paying for injuries, with an enhanced focus on workers’ overall health.”
Insurers also reported they continue to be concerned with “political volatility and the impact of new legislation,” yet few mentioned the possibility of federal involvement as a concern and that they will be monitoring legislative activity, according to the report.
Other concerns included the future of the workers compensation industry, opioid abuse and medical marijuana, and advancements in technology, according to the report.
“New concerns for worker safety are tied to the hiring of more unskilled workers, distracted drivers, and the challenge of ‘under the influence’ workers,” the report states, adding that most insurers are working to “educate their stakeholders and the public on the benefits of workers compensation by highlighting how the industry has directly and indirectly influenced safer workplaces and better outcomes for injured workers.”
A push to reduce opioid addiction through alternative pain management and potential changes in federal laws and regulations are among the issues that employers should watch for in 2017, according to a report from Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc.