Thursday, May 21, 2015

Motorcycles, Italy and Comp

This is my last blog post until after June 3.

I'm going on vacation. Leaving on a jet plane with my son to ride motorcycles in the Tuscany region of Italy.

Interestingly enough, there was an article in Business Insider the other day on how teenagers can convince their fathers (and they were adamant to ask Dad, not Mom...) to permit motorcycle ownership.

My motorcycle affliction started early. I was 10 years old when a neighborhood kid got one of those hard tailed, Tecumsah lawn mower engine powered mini bikes.

I'm sure you've seen The Simpsons, and when Bart and Lisa want something they engage in an endless verbal assault on the parents until they get what they want.
I don't think it gets better....
That was my brother and me. Mom of course was sure that we were either going to kill ourselves, get maimed and disabled in the process, or get tattoos and join the Hell's Angels.

Dad was more circumspect. Since I had, for example, already attempted parachuting with a bed sheet from the second story roof of our home (along with many other death defying antics), he figured I was going to get killed, maimed and disabled and/or get a tattoo even without a motorcycle.

And besides, "you meet the nicest people on a Honda."

So he came home with Honda's answer to the mini-bike, a much more refined solution, the Trail 50. Hard tail, three speed centrifugal clutch transmission and folding handlebars.

45 years later, and of course many injuries and, yes, trips to the emergency room, and I'm proud to say that the same lessons I learned riding and owning motorcycles have been passed along to my children (though my daughter doesn't presently own or ride, but she's busy guiding tourists in Alaska rock climbing, zip-lining and trail hiking).

The Business Insider article lists 8 things a teenager can do to convince Dad to permit motorcycle ownership - these of course are applicable to workers' compensation (you knew that!):

1. Preface your argument with accomplishments. Much has been made lately about the general media attack on workers' compensation. If we are being honest with ourselves, a lot of these articles have enough truth to them to make us hurt - we don't like that reality. But the opposite reality is true as well: this industry does a lot of good too. We need to be more verbal about our accomplishments, but also acknowledge (and seek to rectify) our shortcomings.

2. Point to your responsibilities. We accomplish good things, and we have responsibility for millions of people and billions of dollars. It's not an easy job and it takes maturity and professionalism to carry out the mission.

3. Remind him of his younger self. We go there often enough, but that time was several generations ago, and the history isn't appreciated. What can be more scary, however, as a business owner than facing a jury of your peers about to determine just how much money you are going to have to pay, without limitation? Hmmm, all of a sudden the set financial limits of workers' compensation seem like a bargain.

4. Register for a [motorcycle safety] class before talking to him. Work comp is complex. We do lots of things and navigate conflicting laws to get to an outcome that hopefully is positive. The only way to do this is to stay educated and up to date on the ever changing subtleties of workers' compensation law and how it intertwines with other medical and disability laws.

5. Involve him in the decision. Once a claim gets into our collective hands, communications with both the employer and injured worker tend to get stifled. There are lots of required legal notices that go out, for sure, but no lay person can understand them. Frequent telephone calls and personal meetings informing of status, and inviting comment or participation in the decision making process go a very long way towards smooth claim management (and hugely reduced litigation rates).

6. Have the gear already picked. In other words, be prepared to demonstrate that you are ready to take on the responsibility and be safe. Show the employer and the injured worker that you have the necessary "gear" to manage the claim efficiently, safely, expertly, to a desired outcome.

7. Deploy the male bonding argument. This is about riding with Dad. And its about riding with the employer and the claimant - we're in this all together. This is a shared adventure that will build us in many ways to be better people.

8. Learn the details. Study as much as you can about what you are engaging in and present as many options as possible. Read. Learn. Connect.

Yes, pitching workers' compensation to the employer grumbling about the expense, or the injured worker frightened by the process, is much like convincing Dad to allow you to get a motorcycle. The perceptions can be overridden by cogent and responsible evidence.

WorkCompCentral does this every first Saturday of December - this year, 12/05/2015 - with our Comp Laude Awards and Gala. This year it's national in scope and we're going to tell the rest of the world that workers' compensation can work and do good things when executed properly. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

I discussed some of this with Alan Gurvey, managing partner of applicant law firm Rowen, Gurvey & Win, last night which was recorded for his radio show, Gurvey's Law, on Los Angeles a.m. frequency 790 (KABC Talk Radio). It will air Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. It will also be posted as a podcast here.

I'll be back in a few weeks to tell you, likely, that there really isn't much better than riding Ducati Multistrada motorcycles around Italy with your son.

I'm sure there isn't ... but I do need to confirm this. Type at you in a couple weeks.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Back of the Bus

Cesar Chavez
Our own government, by its actions, discriminates against Hispanics.

Speaking Spanish is less valuable than any other language, according to the California Division of Workers' Compensation in its latest release of SB 863's mandated interpreter fee schedule and regulations.

Karla Navarro, a certified medical interpreter, argued that paying less for Spanish interpretation will create a shortages.

“According to the U.S. Census, by 2050 the Hispanic population will be double what it is today,” she wrote in comment. “Many of these Spanish speaking people will take labor based jobs in which they will most likely be hurt and file a workers’ comp claim. This will lead to needing interpretation for medical appointments and with the proposed changes for regulations and fees, there is very little chance that the work force will be able to meet these needs.”

“We know of no other government fee schedule that singles out Spanish for sub-standard remuneration,” wrote Carl Brakensiek, executive director of the California Society of Industrial Medicine and Surgery.

What DWC is thinking, I'm sure, is that there are so many hispanic workers in the work comp system, and so many that interpret Spanish to English and visa-versa, that they are nearly a majority, and ergo, should be subject to the same expectations that English speaking workers are subject to - i.e. virtually no interpretation.

It's almost as if the government is saying that Spanish is now just a dialect of American English...

Or perhaps the thinking is that market forces will solve the pricing differential and only those truly dedicated to Spanish/English interpretation will stay in the game.

The message that is conveyed, unfortunately, is that discrimination is alive and well in 2015.

Ironically, California state government, including DWC, recognizes with a day of rest the efforts of the late, great Cesar Chavez, who fought long and hard for Hispanic immigrant rights.

As a lawyer, I had been through many depositions and court proceedings where the claimant was mono-lingual Spanish. Not only is there limitation in the native language, but nuances between regions and dialects can result in many different interpretations; subtle differences can result in substantial interpretation challenges.

What's spoken in the fields of the Central Valley is not Castilian Spanish. What's spoken in the court room, or the medical examining room, isn't the Queen's English.

I've argued before that the proposed regulations are overly complicated and invite work arounds and abuse. The resolution can be very simple...

In the meantime, if you speak Spanish, sit in the back of the bus.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Share This

The key note speaker at the NCCI Annual Issues Symposium last week was Salim Ismail. He's a technology guru, having served previously as a vice president at Yahoo.

Ismail spoke eloquently about how fast technology is evolving, and how the hockey stick growth curve of services like Uber and other "shared economy" companies is going to radically change the way America works.

Truthfully, the law has always been, and always will be, behind technology - because The Law is reactive. The law doesn't come into action until it is requested, or required.

Ismail also noted that the laws and regulations that govern America can not keep pace with the Information Revolution - even though he opined that this revolution is only about 1 percent underway.

What Ismail foresees is a radical, and fundamental challenge to work, the work place, and ultimately workers' compensation, and society is going to have to ask itself if people are really, really ready to take care of themselves.

Because that's what the "shared economy" is all about.

In the shared economy, goods and services that used to be the province of organized business are distributed by individuals who have no commitment, obligation or allegiance to any legal business entity.

Nor does any legal business entity owe those individuals providing those goods and services any promise beyond a commission check. Or at least that's the way they see it.

People that subscribe to the shared economy ideal, value the freedom, independence and virtually unlimited earning capacity of "micropreneurs."

All good and well until something bad happens, and something bad always happens eventually.

Then the micropreneurs find out what a lot of us real entrepreneurs already know - the world is a cruel place and there's no one to fall back on except one's self (and a whole lot of credit cards) when the proverbial excrement hits the fan.

And this is perfectly find and dandy IF society is willing to tolerate a whole new class of workers that don't have the skills, education, fortitude, determination, discipline, ability, and, ultimately, financing, to stand alone with out the structure and formality of traditional employment and its suite of legal protections.

Uber, with its multi-billion dollar valuation (and I "get it" - that hockey stick growth curve of explosive acceptance by the purchasing public) can't wait for driverless cars - then they can substantially limit the attendant liability of drivers, wrecks, passenger abuse, and of course workers' compensation.

Right now, the shared economy business model relies on dislocating employment liabilities onto the employed.

I suspect that the shared economy is just starting. It will grow. Very large.

Critics of the shared economy say that it will create a larger class of "have nots" - have no insurance, have no health care, have no work comp, have no protections.

Advocates argue the shared economy didn't create this disparity, that it has existed in cycles forever - that the cycle of technological innovation has always outpaced the law, and society's ability to deal with the entrails.

According to Rachel Botsman in an opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal, organizations are already dealing with disparity outside the government: TaskRabbit has introduced a wage floor, making it impossible for workers to earn less than $12.80 an hour; and Freelancers Union are creating ways for independent contractors to pool bargaining power to access discounted health insurance and telecom plans.; still others are working on how to share equity.

Botsman points to a recent survey of Lyft drivers who were asked if they would prefer to join a traditionally structured company - only 25% said yes. The rest, presumably, enjoy their independence and control over schedules, rates, etc.

The opposing argument by Andrew Keen is that the companies that create shared economy technology do great, but the workers get the shaft; i.e. these are "jobs" that have no legal protection.

Keen says that the shared economy is, in reality, a "very selfish economy."

Having been around for some 55 plus years, I can say quite confidently that the vast majority of people don't belong in a "shared economy." Most people don't have the stomach, the discipline, the fortitude, the chutzpah of an entrepreneur, and are grossly incapable of taking care of their own lives, let alone their own business.

There is a huge population for which the traditional employment model is not only beneficial, but necessary.

Will traditional employment succumb to the shared economy? I don't think so.

What will happen is that a lot of people will find supplemental income via the shared economy, just like E-Bay has become a new retail storefront for many.

So the "shared economy" may supplement traditional employment.

But these new micropreneurs will become disenfranchised once something bad happens - like a work accident - and they have no recourse or remedy.

Perhaps the laws don't need to change. Perhaps they are structured the way they are because we learned a hundred years ago as this country evolved through the Industrial Age that we have this pretty much figured out.

An independent contractor is an independent contractor until a court says otherwise - then the business that "shared" itself with that (now) employee takes a hit and perhaps goes out of business.

Isn't that why work comp came about in the first place

The more things change, the old saying goes, the more things stay the same.

Sure, "shared economy" is a neat buzz phrase that's been marketed by Silicon Valley. 

It doesn't mean anything to The Law.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Dog Will Bite

There is one element of human behavior that is not very well appreciated by most people - for the most part, socialized humans follow the law.

However, people in completely rational behavior, will also take advantage of the law in order to achieve whatever their mission is. They will not break the law, but nearly all of us will push the boundaries if it suits us in order to accomplish our  missions.

We do this every day driving our cars. We exceed the speed limit all over the place - maybe not by much, and as we know most police officers are rather tolerant of someone going 5 miles per hour over the limit, and much less tolerant of someone going ten over.

Part of this behavior stems from the fact that, with very little exception, laws, rules and regulations are restrictive in nature - they tell us what we CAN'T do, but don't tell us what we can do. For the most part this is because it is really very hard to determine what will be allowed - it's much easier to describe what won't be allowed.

So when we combine good law abiding people who want to get their job done along with restrictive laws we end up with what is commonly known as "loopholes."

Loopholes in the law exist because someone who needs to get something accomplished found a way to do so regardless of some proscription against it.

Take for instance California's Independent Medical Review process. IMR was conceived for the purpose of expediting medical decisions outside of the legal context. Whether this in fact occurs, and whether or not this mission is accomplished, is the subject of much debate - and is not the subject of this post.

Rather, IMR has produced an unintended consequence that arises from people doing their jobs, and doing the job well, within the constricts of the law.

There is a faction of the workers' compensation industry whose job it is to minimize ultimate claims costs. These are good, law abiding, citizens. They follow the law ... carefully and considerately. And they have a job to do, within the bounds of the law.

What they have discovered is that an IMR denial of treatment is a final determination on that procedure.

As a consequence, when it comes time to deal with Medicare, a final denial of treatment within the workers' compensation context means that item can be removed from a Workers' Compensation Medicare Set-Aside trust.

In other words, something that a workers' compensation payer WOULD have been liable for prior to IMR means that there is no ongoing liability to either the injured worker, or to the federal government.

This also means that the cost of that care is shifted to Medicare.

While this may be perfectly legal, and certainly even prudent from the workers' compensation payor's view point, my bet is that this was not intended by the authors of SB 863, nor any other medical treatment limitation law in any other state.

I recently opined that time limitations on temporary disability indemnity unfairly burdened the Social Security system - to the tune of about $12 billion per year (based on my calculations - and remember I'm a dopey lawyer with no right brain skills, which means my math is highly suspect).

Several years ago a c-suite insurance executive described to me her strategy for taking advantage of the Affordable Care Act's leave-no-person-without-health-insurance mandate by drafting settlement documents that would provide a claimant with sufficient health insurance for several years in order to close out the workers' compensation claim.

Certainly legal, and certainly she was doing her job - minimizing the impact of claims expense against her company's ledger.

And we could argue day and night about whether this is right, ethical, or even reasonable - to me there's nothing wrong with this strategy because it is legal.

But the unintended consequence challenges the future of workers' compensation.

The purpose of workers' compensation, as we have said time and time again, is to make it affordable for an employer to take care of injured workers.

We all get that.

But I think we forget a fundamental concept: it's the employer's obligation.

We don't fulfill this mission when we make it the responsibility of someone else, such as the federal government via Medicare or Social Security.

Doing so, regardless of legality, invites scrutiny. And when there's enough scrutiny there's inquisition. And when there's enough inquisition, there's interference.

We're on the cusp of that now. The public image of workers' compensation couldn't be lower. There are many talking about skimpy benefits, of wrongfully denied medical treatment, of passing the buck and otherwise shirking responsibility.

These are acts that are, for the most part, the product of people working within the law to accomplish their missions and jobs without regard or even an idea of negative consequences.

This is now playing out with California IMR.

California IMR has been under attack since inception. The California Third District Court of Appeals, in Ramirez v. WCAB (SCIF), No. C078440, has granted review to test its constitutionality.

Ramirez joins a case already pending at the 1st DCA, Stevens v. WCAB (Outspoken Entertainment), No. A143043, which also seeks to have IMR declared invalid.

The basis of these cases is that fundamental rights of due process are violated because there is no legal review process and the determinations by the IMR physician are to be deemed final.

California's Constitution, in relevant part, states:

"The Legislature is hereby expressly vested with plenary power, unlimited by any provision of this Constitution, to create,and enforce a complete system of workers' compensation, by appropriate legislation, and in that behalf to create and enforce a liability on the part of any or all persons to compensate any or all of their workers for injury or disability, and their dependents for death incurred or sustained by the said workers in the course of their employment, irrespective of the fault of any party. A complete system of workers' compensation includes ... full provision for such medical, surgical, hospital and other remedial treatment as is requisite to cure and relieve from the effects of such injury.

"The Legislature is vested with plenary powers, to provide for the settlement of any disputes arising under such legislation by arbitration, or by an industrial accident commission, by the courts, or by either, any, or all of these agencies, either separately or in combination, and may fix and control the method and manner of trial of any such dispute, the rules of evidence and the manner of review of decisions rendered by the tribunal or tribunals designated by it; provided, that all decisions of any such tribunal shall be subject to review by the appellate courts of this State."

Perhaps those challenging IMR have an argument.

Even more so, though, it occurs to me that the courts of California may not let the burden of providing medical treatment "as is requisite to cure and relieve from the effects of" injury leave the jurisdiction of California. Foisting the burden onto the federal government jeopardizes state independence ultimately.

Just because someone is acting within the bounds of the law doesn't make that action right, correct or good policy.

When OSHA released its recapitulation of prior research on the adequacy of workers' compensation it was seen by many as overreaching based on faulty research.

Maybe, but this industry should be fearful, because OSHA's report is, in reality, the dog barking because someone is intruding on its property and territory. It may not be trespassing, and there may be invitation, but the dog doesn't know that and doesn't care.

Eventually, the dog will bite. The states won't like that at all.

Friday, May 15, 2015

As Much As We Can

The NCCI Annual Issues Symposium in Orlando is the insurance industry's annual physical examination.

It's about the business of workers' compensation insurance, very simply, and its relative health in comparison to other insurance lines, and other industries.

Lots of numbers are thrown about because that's what insurance people look at.

And that's important. Because without insurance companies then the whole premise of workers' compensation, spreading the risks through some financially viable means (i.e. the cost of risk) doesn't work.

So having a vital insurance industry backing the system is hugely critical to the concept of work injury protection.

This past year the industry wrote $44.2 billion total net premium - the 4th year of premium growth , which NCCI president and CEO, Stephen Klingel said was, "great news."

The private carrier industry posted a 98 combined ratio, which was the first time since 2006 that it was under 100.

Very simply, a combined ratio of 98 means that for every dollar of premium taken in during the measuring period, 98 cents goes out the door as costs and expenses. I believe that the combined ratio is a misleading indicator of insurance line health, but it is commonly and widely used by the investment industry so it gets a lot of attention.

But Klingel advised that this "great news" won't last long, that the industry has seen these trends before and that the path ahead is "turbulent."

There's a lot of variables that impact what the risk of work injury protection costs, but here's the bottom line - it's going to cost more and more over the next couple of years.

There are several factors that come into play, but the most important factor is a continuing trend of low interest rates, which the actuaries and economists at NCCI don't see rising anytime soon despite what the Federal Reserve says.

These low interest rates mean that the insurance industry, which invests largely in conservative vehicles such as Treasury bonds, won't reap the same profit margins from investments as they had with previous investments that are now maturing.

The money has to come from somewhere to keep investors happy, so the only other income avenue - selling the product - needs price increases.

Other challenges facing the insurance industry include the uneven economic recovery; not only has the United States economy been slow to recover from the Great Recession of 2008, but different sectors are growing at different paces for various reasons.

Sectors that are most important to worker's compensation, because of payroll growth and risk categories, such as trucking and construction, are seeing tepid growth, and in certain cases are seeing big changes due to technology.

In fact, manufacturing, which once was a staple underwriting class for work comp carriers, won't ever recover, at least not from a payroll perspective, because many of the jobs that were jettisoned in the recession are being replaced by robotics.

Outsider Salim Ismail, a former vice president at Yahoo and an extraordinarily smart guy, gave attendees an exciting, but at the same time frightening, perspective on how fast technology is growing, and how quickly this world is changing as a result of the Information Revolution.

Ismail showed the exponential curves associated with disruption, and believes (very convincingly so) that we've only just begun; the legal and regulatory frameworks are reactive rather than proactive, largely due to entrenched interests, and are going to remain far behind where this world is going.

I believe that.

Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, showed how jobs are being replaced by automation, and the implication is that those jobs will disappear forever, which means that payroll will disappear forever, which means that carriers will have less premium, which means that prices are going to rise, etc.

Vicious circle.

I came away believing that while there is going to be an employment shift, that shift will be towards more technical jobs requiring more skills and paying more money - and there will be a lot of those jobs coming on line providing plenty of job opportunities for the displaced.

There is going to be, however, a population that won't, or can't, make that move and what I fear is really going to happen is that the gulf between the "haves" and the "have nots" will widen.

The bottom line in my opinion is that there is going to be a huge demographic that is going to be left behind for one reason or another and it's going to be society's big job to figure out what to do, and how to support, that population.

And it isn't going to be pretty.

Much was made about the "on demand economy" and how the Ubers of this world are redefining the work place.

We've heard this before at the beginning of the dot com cycle, and actually that argument has preceded virtually every economic shift. 

In the dot com world, the argument was that the typical office-based worker has new freedoms to work wherever, whenever and however they feel, and that this will be empowering greater productivity and satisfaction.

What we have learned (and what I have experienced first hand) is that for some people and jobs, that is true. But the fundamental "pack animal" instinct of humans still favor an office where people gather, collaborate face to face, and leave their work when they're done for the day so there's some sanity at home...

I'm a simple, liberal arts kind of guy - that's why I became a lawyer. All of these numbers are confounding, confusing, and challenge my underdeveloped left brain. 

It's difficult to reconcile the business of workers' compensation with the mission of workers' compensation.

And maybe they can't be reconciled. These are left brain versus right brain concepts. Different people are good at different things. 

Regardless, the check up at the Annual Issues Symposium is important because The Money has to know that it is in good hands. We are stewards of a very complex system. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we get it wrong.

I think most of us try as hard as we can to get it right as much as we can.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


"I don't need someone to advocate for me. I need someone to empower me."

Becky Curtis was in a frightening roll over accident in Montana in 2005 when she fell asleep at the wheel. She was working and suffered a spinal cord injury resulting in partial paraplegia and intensive, prolonged (chronic) pain.

Ask her about workers' compensation, and she has nothing but positive things to say about the team that took care of her, and still is helping her.
Becky Curtis' car

Through vocational retraining Curtis became a pain management coach, and founded Take Courage Coaching to help chronic pain patients, those for whom pain management modalities have done the most any third party intervention could, enjoy life in spite of the pain.

Pain management, as Curtis explained to the audience at the Self Insurance Institute of America's annual Workers' Compensation Executive Forum yesterday in New Orleans, requires the patient ultimately be active in their own recovery, not a passive patient.

There is a psycho-physiological reality to chronic pain, that was explained by Michael Coupland, CPsych, RPsych, CRC. Coupland said that at the point where pain becomes chronic, which is when third party remedies no longer have an impact, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is highly effective.

CBT is about remapping the brain to redirect the signals sent by the nervous system and involves a concept called neuroplasticity - the brain is flexible enough that it can be, essentially, trained to feel differently.

There was an overall theme to the forum that underscored a key difference between self-insured workers' compensation programs, and traditional insurance models: focus on the employee.

Though there were sessions on marijuana, the changes in health care insurance, and other technical sessions, the overall tone was, take care of the claim and the benefits will follow. Other than the debate about self-insurance groups versus captives, there was very little talk about cost and expense; most of the talk was about how to better serve the injured worker.

I expected this from a self-insurance oriented forum. The mindset is much different from the traditional insurance model, because the self-insured employer has a much tighter, more involved interest: that injured worker is THEIR employee and they're working with THEIR money.

The insurance covered employer typically doesn't react that way because the insurance company is an intermediary with its own financial objectives.

Self-insured employers get it: the best way to lower your workers' compensation expenses is to treat the injured worker quickly, efficiently, thoroughly and with the best treatment (including CBT) available.

Notice I did NOT says the MOST treatment - that is a vendor/provider desire.

The BEST treatment means sometimes having to pay more than fee schedule. It means sometimes authorizing a couple of extra physical therapy sessions even though the law says you've done enough. It means having claims adjuster case loads of not much more, if at all, than 100, so adjusters can actually make a difference rather than spend so much time entering data and completing paperwork.

It means providing the tools to the injured worker that will empower her to overcome chronic pain.

These remedies are available to traditionally insured employers, by the way - they just don't know it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


I was flying along at 37,000 feet, using United Airline's GoGo Internet service in flight to New Orleans for the Self Insurance Institute's Workers' Compensation Executive Forum.

A month ago I wasn't scheduled for this conference, but our Marketing Director talked me into attending since I was going to NCCI's Annual Issues Symposium in Orlando that week - New Orleans is on the way....

As I was staring at a Google Drive spreadsheet trying to figure out the formulas I would need to model a new business process an email from Mark Walls, VP Communications & Strategic Analysis for Safety National arrived: "Did you change your flight tomorrow?  If you did, I want to pull you into the Issues to Watch session tomorrow from 2-3pm."

Nope. Principally because I'm cheap, and I didn't want to lose the money I had already spent for a non-refundable flight from New Orleans to Orlando.

And I didn't bring a coat or tie...

That wasn't an objection to Mark.

An email to the WorkCompCentral worldwide headquarter's travel department generated a change of flight schedules. That was easier than I had anticipated.

For some reason that prompted a recollection of a philosophical article I read a while back by Oliver Emberton. He describes himself as, "Founder of Silktide, writer, pianist, programmer, artist and general busy bee."
His observations are acutely accurate, and sometimes painful.

He writes, life isn't unfair, we just don't play by the rules.

In short his observations are based on three principals.

1. Life IS a competition: My staff knows about this. Just ask them what I think about AYSO mentality. That email was brash and offensive, and in a big company would have gotten me into A LOT of trouble - fortunately my staff knows me well. They got the message hidden within my emotions and forgave  my stupidity.

2. You're judged by what you do, not what you think: I'm in an odd position, because a lot of what I do entails what I think. I write and I speak. Sometimes that gets me into trouble. Most of the time I, quite honestly, am baffled that folks find value in what I write and speak - but that's what I do.

3. Our idea of fairness is self-interest: This one REALLY applies to us in the workers' compensation field and is most poignant - we all hold ideas about what workers' compensation SHOULD be, but those ideas principally originate from what we want out of workers' compensation, not what is best globally for society.

A friend of mine, who consults employers about workers' compensation, is a big Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, fan. He comments that he first read it in 1973 and reads it at least every couple years since.

He says that at first he was taking on a world mission to "bring the message," but that as he got older, more mature, more experienced in life, he realized that Rand was just a shaman - telling stories and scaring people with tales of the "boogey man."

"She sets up straw men so she can knock them down."

But the one thing my friend says he did hang on to was the simple advise, when the world pressed down harder, was to tell Atlas to "shrug his shoulders."

Thus, the title of the novel - 'Atlas Shrugged'.

I had been whining to my friend about all of my life's complications, the pressures, the expectations (mine and others), and other matters largely irrelevant (in hindsight) to life.

"You THINK you have 30 employees, independent contractors, and bills to pay. No, you don't. You have yourself to be true to," my friend advised. 

"All you have to do is to BE you - and everyone else will have to be okay with that. If you think what you're doing now is important then keep doing it," he said. "If not, go do what you think is really important. It's never going to get any better than putting on jeans and a T-shirt and hanging out with your friends and family."

The panel presentation today is "Workers' Compensation Issues to Watch."

"Just be you," Walls said.

Okay - I have no idea what is going to come out of my mouth this afternoon. But likely it will entail this theme: workers' compensation isn't fair, and we don't play by the rules. Life is a competition, get over it. We ARE judged by what we do - ProPublica, OSHA, the Texas Tribune, L.A. Times and countless others have painfully pointed this out.

And our idea of fairness is all about self-interest.

I didn't pack a coat or tie, but fortunately I did bring some WorkCompCentral logo'd tropical print shirts.

Oh, I apparently also had Southwest credits, so the change in flights didn't really cost that much more money...