Friday, February 12, 2016

The Supremacy Clause

The Supremacy Clause in the United States Constitution dictates that federal law takes precedence over state law.

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution which dictates that federal law is the "supreme law of the land," which has been interpreted to mean that the courts in every state must follow the Constitution, laws, and treatises of the federal government in matters which are directly or indirectly within the government's control.

Under the doctrine of preemption, which is based on the Supremacy Clause, federal law preempts state law, and a federal court may require a state to stop certain behavior it believes interferes with, or is in conflict with, federal law.

The federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act sets standards for private-sector “employee welfare benefit plans.” It defines an “employee welfare benefit plan” as any program established by an employer to provide employees with medical care or benefits in the event of sickness, accident, disability, death or unemployment.

ERISA is at the heart of opt-out.

ERISA provides plan participants with a civil cause of action to enforce or clarify their right to benefits, and allows an employer to remove such disputes from state court tribunals to the federal trial court system.

In Texas, which as we know does not compel workers' compensation participation, this has never been a big issue - the argument was settled long ago that non-subscribers with alternative work injury protection plans go to federal court for those matters that ERISA says can not be the subject of arbitration.

But in Oklahoma, which compels employers to provide some form of work injury protection, either via participation in the state work comp program or via an approved opt-out scheme, the matter is not settled.

The Oklahoma Employee Injury Benefit Act requires employers who opt out of work comp to create plans for their employees that provide the same form of benefits as those included in the Oklahoma Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act.

One of those benefits is access to the dispute resolution process created for work injuries, and the 2013 law also created a new system (which, by the way, was opposed by the state's trial lawyers - interesting how things turn around...) to hear those disputes creating an administrative review process followed by appeals into the civil courts.

That obviously conflicts with ERISA.

Dillard's department store chain, one of the first to opt out of Oklahoma workers' compensation when it became available, tested preemption but lost the argument that work injury disputes under its plan belong in federal court last September.

In that ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Friot said that such appeals have to go to the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission because ERISA contains an exclusion of its coverage for any employee benefit plan maintained solely for the purpose of complying with a state's comp laws.

Friot remanded the matter back to the commission.

Dillard's is asking the commission to send the case back into the federal judicial system, filing a motion asserting that it doesn't have jurisdiction due to federal preemption, because its plan is not SOLELY for the purpose of workers' compensation but covers non-industrial benefits too.

The case won't end at the commission. Representatives for the parties on both sides have indicated commitment to see the issue through to the state supreme court.

Workers' compensation is a creature of the legislature. As we all know, what the legislature giveth, the legislature can taketh away, and in most states, legislatures can do pretty much whatever they want to do with work comp because of its statutory nature.

Can a state legislature buck the feds? Even if not sanctioned by the federal government, many states just go about their business regardless of federal law - the marijuana movement is recent evidence.

It may be that these cases end up before the United States Supreme Court at some point down the road. Or maybe not - that's many years, and a lot of money, to get there. But if there was any test case for the Supremacy Clause, the Oklahoma dispute is a prime example.

Oral argument before commission is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 19, at 9 a.m.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Seven Years Too Long?

How fair does the workers' compensation system have to be to an insurance company?

Certainly an insurance company has much more resources than an injured worker, and more than the vast majority of the insured employer population as well.

But are there times when an insurance company, as an entity, is so deeply prejudiced that it is unfair, despite its resources, to make it pay on a claim?

My bet is that the vast majority of the general population would say "no"; the insurance industry has one of the worst public images, down there with lawyers and used car sales.

Injured workers would likely say there are absolutely no circumstances when an insurance company should be let off the hook on a claim. Policy-wielding employers would likely not be far behind in supporting that view.

But insurance is a business, bottom line. That means it has to make financial sense for an insurance company to do business. Whether or not a company in the business of selling and administering workers' compensation insurance makes money is the product of two basic components: investment income from the money it holds in trust for policy holders; and, relatedly, keeping expenses down (i.e. not paying claims it isn't required to).

There is a long succession of cases out of the United States Supreme Court evolving the rights of corporations. They have religious rights, freedom of speech rights, rights against double jeopardy, etc.

So, do common law notions of fairness and equity also apply to insurance company corporations under workers' compensation systems?

The California Second District Court of Appeals is pondering that question and like many cases where lines in the sand are sought, the facts are on the extreme end of the spectrum.

Truck Insurance wrote a policy for the Har Lam Kee Restaurant.

Image: Google Maps Street View
In January 2005, Ng Fung Kwok fell from the roof of the Har Lam Kee Restaurant in Monterey Park while looking for the source of a leak. No one saw how the 37-year-old came to fall. The accident left Kwok unable to breathe, speak or swallow on his own.

For whatever reason, though, a workers' compensation claim for Kwok wasn't filed until seven and a half years after his accident.

The carrier denied the claim on a statute of limitations defense, a lack of evidence that Kwok's injury arose out of his employment.

A Workers' Compensation Judge determined that his claim had been timely because Kwok's employer had failed to perform its statutory duty to inform him of his right to file a claim.

Truck sought reconsideration by the WCAB, complaining that the judge had not addressed its laches defense; an equitable defense that bars an action when there has been an unreasonable delay in filing the action, and which results in prejudice to the defendant.

Truck's prejudice is: 1) that since Har Lam Kee was a family-owned and operated restaurant, Kwok's employer obviously knew about the injury; 2) Truck was unable to speak to witnesses, locate documents regarding the ownership of the restaurant and Kwok’s wages, or review the insurance policy issued to the restaurant to determine coverage due to the latency in reporting the claim; 3) Truck destroys records after seven years, so it couldn't check to see what coverage it had extended to Har Lam Kee's employees by the time Kwok's claim was filed, which is important because; 4) there was evidence Kwok was the owner of the restaurant and he would likely have been excluded from coverage under normal policy language.

The WCJ recommended that the board deny reconsideration, opining that the carrier's laches defense failed for the same reasons as its statute of limitations defense.

After the board denied reconsideration, Truck sought judicial review.

Kwok's attorneys respond that Truck’s admission at trial that Kwok was a restaurant employee, then it didn't matter that Truck was unable to determine who the actual owner of the restaurant had been. Kwok's attorneys further emphasize that Truck was able to actively participate in contested hearings where testimonial evidence was presented, and that it wasn't Kwok's fault that his wife didn't file a claim sooner.

More interestingly, though, the 2nd DCA questions whether there was coverage, presumably based on the argument that Kwok may have been the owner of the restaurant and thus excluded under the policy.

The real bottom line in the case is why did it take seven and a half years for Kwok's family to make a workers' compensation claim? Something is amiss here.

Which is likely why the 2nd DCA is questioning coverage (in which case it would be referred to arbitration for the factual determination under California law).

As Truck says in its briefing, "The family should not be allowed to extend indefinitely the time for one of its members to file a workers’ compensation claim simply because, despite their actual knowledge, they failed to comply with the technical notice provisions of the workers’ compensation statute."

I think that fairly summarizes why the carrier feels it is prejudiced in this case.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Adjuster Does Right

I write all the time about bad things in workers' compensation and how we need to give the world something positive to talk about. Just yesterday I commented on the medical fraud mill in Southern California. The day before that it was about a professional football player that endured decades of delay and denial until he got the medical care recommended by the insurance company's consultant.

Every day there's something negative reported. The whole institution of workers' compensation seems ensconced in delay, denial, refusal, dispute...

This negativity wears on the psyche. People in workers' compensation seem embarrassed to be associated with the industry because of these bad perceptions. Everyone has a neighbor who's "cheating" because they can mow the lawn while out on disability. Doctors don't listen to their patients because they're not paid to do so and can't afford the time if they are to stay in business. Lawyers, even for the defense, get disheartened because financial control takes precedence over return to health.

Even claims adjusters, those who are really on the front line, end up with inferiority complexes, despite doing the right thing.

The tone in the prose of "Adjuster X" in the latest postings in Risk and Insurance's website seems apologetic, even depressing - because he did the right thing against the wishes of his superiors, the broker and the employer.

You can tell by reading his tale that he KNOWS the right answer to his claim question right away: accept or deny. And you can feel his angst as he tries to do his job, correctly and appropriately with sound decision making within the bounds of the law and the description of his job.

The facts seem to me pretty straight forward and point to compensability.

The injured worker, a 54 year old nurse case manager, was driving from one appointment to another when she was involved in a serious rear-end auto accident. She was not wearing a seat belt. She was also, apparently, considered a marginal employee, good enough but not great.

The broker demanded the adjuster deny the claim because of the lack of safety belt, obviously not understanding that workers' compensation is a no fault system. "I told him that my investigation was still ongoing," writes Adjuster X, "and any decision now would be premature," too polite to tell the uneducated broker that negligence has no basis in comp (although in this state apparently benefits could be reduced by 25% for lack of a safety belt in an auto accident).

It appears that after about two weeks of hospital care the adjuster gets a demand letter from an attorney representing the employee demanding the claim be accepted, and after consultation with house counsel Adjuster X ultimately did accept the claim and started paying benefits.

After 10 months the employee's condition didn't improve, and her attorney amended the claim to include psyche and total disability. Opposing medical-legal exams ensued with predictable results.

"Further defense of the case would be time consuming and costly," Adjuster X concludes, "so reluctantly we accepted the case for lifetime disability."

When I read the account by Adjuster X, I hear embarrassment at not meeting the demands of the employer and its broker. I feel anxiety and conflict in knowing someone's life was inescapably altered and who's future is in his hands. In the conclusion I glean relief: decision made, time to move on, another case of heart wrenching decision making processes to take its place.

It's easy to denigrate and criticize "the insurance company" because of the monolithic facade of the establishment, and the cold, dehumanizing character of the process.

But behind that steel and glass are real human beings entrenched in conflict as soon as they walk through the doors to do their jobs. Every day the professional at the claims desk has decisions to make that affect, deeply, others.

The pressure comes from the broker and employer who aren't educated or experienced in the nuances of workers' compensation law or have some ulterior motive. There's pressure from corporate to meet financial and compliance goals. The threat of litigation adds an additional layer of pressure.

And, "reluctantly," the claims adjuster has to decide between the financial interests of his employer or the humanitarian interests of his ward, the injured worker.

In the end, Adjuster X did the right thing.

Not without considerable anxiety, stress and internal conflict - all of which is palpable in Adjuster X's story.

The employee is likely one for the rolls, and the case file will migrate from adjuster to adjuster through the years to administer lifetime benefits and medical care, likely with no less anxiety, stress and conflict for the successive adjusters.

In my mind, though, Adjuster X made the workers' compensation process function as intended - to me this is ultimately a success story.

There are many more success stories like Adjuster X's, where the right decision is reached through the discord and contention that is inherent in the claims process. We need to recognize those stories and the people that make them happen.

“There are a lot of more positive narratives out there—but they’re lonely, and disconnected. It would make a difference to join them together, as a chorus that has a melody.” Phillip Zelikow, a professor at the University of Virginia, to journalist James Fallows in “How America is Putting Itself Back Together.”

Comp Laude™ 2016 will happen in Burbank, CA Nov 4 & 5. I hope you will share your success stories and celebrate those of others.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Catholic School

Experience, or the number of injury claims, has been going down across the country except for one specific geographic area - Southern California. Ergo, the expense of workers' compensation for employers is also greater in that area than most other geographic zones.

There has never really been a cogent assessment of why. Some have speculated that there's more diversity in the Southland, some have pointed out a larger demographic of unskilled, uneducated workers doing manual labor, and others think it may be a combination of complex factors.

Or it could be that Southern California is just home to more criminals.

But it's not the claimants perpetrating crime. Rather, the real money is in the vending of benefits, particularly medical benefits, and even more so diagnostic and medical-legal services.

We don't learn very well.
Holy Trinity, San Pedro, CA

This criminal pattern has been repeated throughout my 32 years of experience in the work comp industry many times. There are various techniques used to perpetrate the crime, and all of those various techniques have, at some point in various reforms, been the subject of new laws declaring an activity felonious.

And each time the vast majority of vendors who have legitimate practices get punished, and the constituents whom are to be served by the system lose out, only to find that the targeted criminal activity has taken life in yet another scheme.

The basic scheme works on referrals. So long as referrals are kept "within network" it's very difficult to crack the secret code. There's usually a mastermind who controls the network with cash, or violent, incentives. Someone is tasked with finding "patients" who are promised free money and free medical care for whatever ails them. That "patient" is then referred in a big circle generating diagnostic services and medical reports (all of which, upon loose inspection, will reveal surprisingly similar content, sometimes embarrassingly so). Sometimes treatment is even provided, but more often than not treatment takes on a phantom quality. Billings for those services are then submitted and liens are filed, with the sole intent of settling for pennies on the dollar because, what the heck, it's free money since no real services or goods were provided.

In the most recently publicized scheme, the providers and others indicted as part the FBI's "Operation Backlash" have collectively filed more than 33,000 liens, with a total claimed face value of at least $233.5 million, according to a WorkCompCentral analysis of data available from the Division of Workers' Compensation's Electronic Adjudication Management System, or EAMS.

That analysis doesn't include all of the fraudulent billings that were not contested and were paid either at face value, discounted to fee schedule, or negotiated without filing for lien protection.

We frankly don't have a very good system for understanding when an illegal referral/work comp fraud scheme is incubating. By the time suspicions arise, the conspiracies have mushroomed and have provided nice profits, and the only thing that trips up the criminals is plain old basic greed; easy money for too long.

Which is why these schemes will continue, and why, no matter how many laws are passed making this or that illegal, fraud will continue to take money away from injured workers and the services they need, and will continue to batter the black eye that workers' compensation perpetually experiences, at least in Southern California.

Why do workers' compensation criminals congregate in Southern California? I think it's a simple matter of the weather. Criminals are, essentially, lazy - why work for money if you can get it easier. Likewise, why shovel snow, or deal with seasons, if you can live nearly 365 days a year in mild, forgiving climate with a vast array of recreational opportunities?

I've long believed that Southern California's climate was the primary driving force for its robust economy. It takes smart people to start and grow business. Smart people want the same thing everyone wants: comfort. So smart people go where the weather's good and they figure everything else out after that.

So do criminals.

I know, the basic medical fraud scheme isn't the only game in town. Various cheats against work comp take on different permutations depending upon the level and origination. Sometimes it's within the system, sometimes it's external. Sometimes it's penny ante, sometimes it's a huge scale. Sometimes it's white collar within otherwise respected institutions, and other times it's low scale.

At all times it's contemptuous. Sure, the fraud "costs" insurance companies millions of dollars a year - but that's a false conclusion because those costs are simply passed down to the policy payers. When a fraud recovery is made, though, that money doesn't find its way back to those payers...hmmm...

The real damage is to the institution of workers' compensation and everyone in the system that believes in the mission and who try to execute within the constrictions of the law; ergo those are the same people that are punished with fees, procedures, reviews and other sorts of nonsense intended to capture a very small percentage of anti-socials.

It sort of feels like Catholic School to me. I went to Holy Trinity in San Pedro, CA, from kindergarten through sixth grade. There were one or two kids every year who just couldn't tow the line, and for their transgressions the entire class would suffer some punishment. I guess the theory was that if everyone was punished then us do-gooders would blow the whistle and take on vigilante roles against the jerks that were making our days bad.

That never happened though, because the jerks just didn't care and would do whatever they wanted to do regardless of the consequences.

So, big deal - a fraud bust results in the discovery of hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal activity. When those folks are taken out of the system, there's plenty of others ready to fill the gap.

Fraud is, unfortunately, a cost of doing business in workers' compensation. There's no easy answer. There's no easy remedy.

Like Catholic school, we just live with it and say our afternoon prayers in hopes that the punishment for the rest of us isn't so bad.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Football - Of Course...

The day after Super Bowl Sunday - what did you expect from this blog?

I did what nearly every other American did: watch one of the single biggest media events on television, uniting with millions of others to experience the pageantry, suspense and excitement of professional football - the nation's favorite entertainment.

Of course, mix the National Football League and workers' compensation in the same blog and you come up with brain injury.

There was one Denver Bronco player sidelined with a head injury in the game (I forgot who) and commentators later indicated that he had been referred for neurological examination. The topic came up in announcer banter a couple of times during the broadcast.

Brain injury is a big issue for football, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodall doesn't think so, at least not now with the league's success in state legislatures passing laws against cumulative trauma, cross-jurisdictional awards and an inadequate brain injury trust fund (as part of a class action law suit settlement).

The NFL's various insurance carriers were probably more circumspect about the risks though.

Travelers Insurance Company in particular didn't like the cost of brain injury treatment, so it undertook some subterfuge to avoid it.

George Visger spent only one season with the San Francisco 49ers in 1980. After suffering multiple concussions, Visger developed hydrocephalus, which is a build-up of fluid in the brain.

Travelers was the 49ers workers' compensation insurance company.

Visger established the compensability of his brain injury in 1984, and he received an award of $10,552.50 in permanent disability benefits and future medical care. In the years that followed, however, he struggled to get the treatment awarded.

Finally in 2012, he retained the assistance of counsel.

In response to counsel's communications, Travelers hired medical management company, Paradigm Outcomes, to assess Visger’s condition.

The nurse case manager Paradigm assigned to Visger's case issued a treatment report. Travelers apparently wasn't happy.

The nurse case manager, Douglas Ardley, would later testify that once Travelers learned about the cost of the brain injury treatment he recommended in his report, Travelers told him to bury it. Visger's attorneys were eventually able to obtain the report by subpoena and then secure an award for the recommended treatment.

Travelers challenged the judge's ruling, but the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board denied reconsideration of it last October. The carrier then sought relief from the 2nd DCA, but the court last week decided to let the board's decision stand.

The tragedy in Visger's case isn't that he had hydrocephalus, nor that he had to wait so long to get recommended treatment.

And though reprehensible, there's no tragedy that Travelers pursued its own profitability interests over the ward whom it contracted to take care of; and certainly it's unfortunate that California's reforms over the past 25 years have eviscerated any meaningful penalties or enforcement for bad faith against a recalcitrant claims payer when there's unrequited testimony about dollars over life.

The tragedy is that such cases sabotage trust. I want to report that Travelers read Ardley's report and implemented all recommendations, or more, and went above and beyond the call of contract to take care of Visger.

But instead the company decided shareholder interests were greater than its fiduciary responsibility to the beneficiary of its insurance contract.

It's reported that Commissioner Goodall in his state of the NFL address before the Super Bowl downplayed the safety risks.

"There is risk in everything," he said. "There is risk sitting on the couch."

Visger and his attorneys would argue that there's greater risk ending up in the workers' compensation system subject to medical decisions that take into consideration the payer's profit margins over the health and well being of the injured.

It's a shame.

We should not wonder why work comp has such a bad reputation.

Visger's case was San Francisco 49ers v. WCAB, No. B268862.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Keep It Simple

Boscoe is simple...
Workers' compensation is designed to benefit two opposite interests: the people that get hurt doing work and the people that pay for that work to get done.

While these two interests may seem inapposite, the reality is that both have very similar characteristics, namely both groups are highly diversified in terms of sophistication and education, and both groups have deep historical issues with mistrust of the other.

In the middle are the financial services that make the system of workers' compensation possible by providing the method for accumulating and distributing money.

Our stereotype of the employer is of sophistication, and of the worker naiveté. Of course, both applications are erroneous. The fact is that the vast majority of employers aren't sophisticated when it comes to workers' compensation, and many workers have education and knowledge, albeit when it comes to work comp there's a void.

Consequently the third spoke in the workers' compensation wheel of vested interests, government, requires communications to both employers and workers to be at a level where there isn't much dispute or question about what's being said.

Employer contracts, also generically known as insurance policies, must go through an administrative review process and approved by a state agency, typically a department of insurance, before they can be sold out on the insurance marketplace.

And notices or forms to workers about their claims likewise must meet certain understandability standards.

Two WorkCompCentral stories this morning highlight this dichotomy and the government's role as a communications arbiter.

In one, an employer represented by attorney Nicholas Roxborough, is asking the California Department of Insurance to make precedent an administrative law judge ruling, adopted by the CDI, invalidating a policy side agreement that would force policy holder Shasta Linen to arbitrate disputes with EquityComp administrator Applied Underwriters in the British Virgin Islands using Nebraska law. 

The ALJ ruling, adopted by the CDI, voided that provision because it wasn't filed with the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau or the CDI as required by law. (Applied Underwriters, for the record, disputes this finding and says it is seeking appeal).

And in Texas that state's Division of Workers' Compensation apparently has seen too many forms and notices to injured workers that were either vague, or used incomprehensible technical terms (at least relative to workers), causing it to send a memo reminding insurance carriers and other interested parties about the importance of communicating clearly.

DWC says this type of communication to the insurance industry is routine - a reminder that they need to keep things simple for the consuming public.

The EquityComp plan was the subject of a patent application, which describes the mind-numbingly complex nature of the contract.

"Disclosed herein is a reinsurance-based approach to providing non-linear retrospective premium plans to insureds that may not have the option of such a plan directly," the patent application says. "It also has the surprising ability to enable non-linear plans while at the same time complying with state regulations."

I have no idea what any of that means. I can only imagine how complex the actual language of the policy reads.

The Texas DWC says examples of statements that don’t meet the requirement to clearly explain the basis of the denial or dispute to an injured worker include “under investigation,” “eligibility questioned” and “no medical evidence to support disability.” What they want communicated are the factual basis for denial or delay.

One of the hallmarks of education is an expansion of linguistic abilities - using strings of multisyllabic words in an effort to be precise. But often that is perceived as an obfuscation and magic cards trick to get away with something that otherwise would be objectionable if the reader knew what was actually being said.

Which is why the government has rules in place to keep a check on those with a skill in communication complexity and uses its enforcement power to reel in errant behavior.

Me? I just keep things simple. 

My wife chastised me the other day for my prolific use of a certain four letter word that is associated with carnal knowledge.

"The reason I use that word so much," I replied, "is because it's the only monosyllabic word I know."

Keep it simple and stay out of trouble...

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The New Mexico Lesson

Workers' compensation has always been a legislatively gratuitous act - what the legislature giveth, the legislature can taketh away. Not always with clarity, a state legislature dictates the beneficence of a system and, ultimately, the cost of that beneficence.

Sometimes the lack of clarity causes the judicial branch to interpret legislative acts inconsistently with legislative desire, so the legislature steps in (after, of course, political pressure applied by representatives of the concerned constituency - lobbyists) to correct erroneous judicial interpretations, and sometimes the legislature just succumbs to the desires of powerful interests, rightly or wrongly.

New Mexico is a great present day example of those concepts in action, with a bill recently introduced to eliminate marijuana as a medical obligation under workers' compensation, but another seeking constitutional legitimacy of the state's long tradition of exempting ranching and farming from compulsory work injury protection.

The NM House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow workers' compensation judges to reduce indemnity benefits when a worker's intoxication contributed to the accident causing an injury.

And the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would prohibit workers fired for misconduct after returning to work post injury from collecting temporary disability benefits. The committee also heard testimony on a measure that would eliminate reimbursement for medical marijuana.

In addition, a bill introduced in the Senate on Monday seeks to refine the exemption of certain farm and ranch workers from comp coverage.

All four bills – and their three Senate companion measures – were introduced in response to NM state court decisions.

The state's medical marijuana conflict is well known in the industry. NM courts found pot to be a medically reimbursable item since it is otherwise legal in the state. The insurance industry objects because it forces them to violate federal law. Advocates say much more powerful, addicting medications that have less efficacy for certain conditions are legal, so weed, which is less harmful and purportedly more effective, should be reimbursed if workers' compensation is truly a compassionate system.

Less well known is New Mexico's farm and ranch exemption. The argument for the exemption is that the day laborers used in these operations are transient so it is difficult for farmers and ranchers to discern just where an injury originated. The counter argument is that it doesn't really matter - the purpose of insurance, and in particular workers' compensation, is to spread the risk among a large pool, so while THAT injury may not be your responsibility, eventually your injury will be someone else's responsibility; it all goes around.

Many states have laws punishing intoxication when it leads to a work injury. This may invite some litigation, but the public interest is to ensure that if someone is doing their job they aren't compromised by drugs or alcohol. In other words, don't go to work buzzed - this makes sense

I can't imagine the logic, though, of discontinuing temporary disability benefits if there's "misconduct" after return to work and a termination as a result. To me, this is just inviting employer abuse.

The New Mexico Legislature is scheduled to adjourn Feb. 18. At least we won't have to wait long to see where all this goes.