All those who read my previous post, Letting Problems Fester, learned that my father was admitted to the hospital the day before I wrote the post. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who sent me condolences, as my father passed away on September 14th. The medical care he received while in the hospital was certainly not a factor in his passing, as one of his doctor’s knows my brother, and the other doctors did whatever they could to help my father. The fact remains that when you leave problems to fester, they eventually catch up to you. That is the case with the workers’ comp industry, as the following post will discuss.
Today’s Health Wonk Review on Workers’ Comp Insider, posted an article from Roberto Ceniceros called, National Employers Push for Comp Options. The article appeared last week in Risk & Insurance.com.
Ceniceros wrote that national employers are benefiting by opting out of the Texas workers’ comp system, and are pushing for “free market alternatives” to traditional state workers’ comp systems.
These employers have launched a new organization called the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation (ARAWC), and plan to lobby state legislators to allow employers to develop new options for delivering medical and wage replacement benefits to injured workers.
Some of the members of this organization are: Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. They are frustrated with being forced into “entrenched” workers’ comp systems that prevent them from adopting practices that could benefit them and their employees, according to Richard Evans, executive director of Austin-based ARAWC.
I have written before about opt-out programs in Texas and in Oklahoma, and my all of my articles have made the point that medical travel can be beneficial to employers, especially in dealing with the high cost of surgeries under workers’ comp.
Mr. Evans has expressed many of the things I have been saying when he stated in Roberto’s article that traditional state systems, influenced by various interests, make it impossible to adopt medical delivery practices that can lower costs and speed employee return to work. State administrative burdens, for example, he adds, discourage the best doctors from treating workers’ comp cases.
One of the other issues Evans echoes from my previous posts, is that “Workers’ comp is slow to change,”…“There are a lot of stakeholders involved and it’s hard to make those changes.”
It is worth noting that two of the members of ARAWC (pronounced a-rock) have already explored medical travel for their group health plans, albeit as far as domestic medical travel is concerned, and not international or cross-border medical travel.
If ARAWC is successful in lobbying state legislators to allow employers to seek alternatives to traditional workers’ comp, it would be in ARAWC’s interest to also consider medical travel, in both its domestic and international aspects.
This is what I have said all along. There needs to be movement on the part of employers, large ones such as Wal-Mart and Lowes, and smaller ones as well, such as HSM in North Carolina, and all other employers around the country to seek free market alternatives to high cost workers’ comp medical benefits. Medical travel is a free market alternative because it takes advantage of one of economics’ chief rules: goods and services will go to those markets that can provide them at lower cost at the same or better quality than what is currently available in the local market.
Those who pooh-pooh this are not only wrong; they are flying in the face of those like Mr. Evans and his organization and their members who are seeking to escape the padded cell.