In just five days hundreds of people from around the nation will gather for the Fourth Annual WorkCompCentral Comp Laude Awards and Gala.
That's a mouthful of a title for a dream I've had for some time - get as many different workers' compensation interests together into one space for just an evening, and recognize what goes right with work comp.
I know it sounds Polly-Annish, and perhaps it is just wistful thinking; the hope is that if claims executives meet the subjects of benefit distribution; if the medical community meets the employers that pay into the system; if lawyers meet service providers; if government meets vendors ...
That if everyone that has anything to do with workers' compensation all get together for one day, one evening of recognizing that there are good things that can happen with the work injury protection system(s), stories will be told, messages will be heard, understandings will occur - and maybe, just maybe, people will work towards the common good for the sake of society, rather than for individualistic opportunism.
I'm not completely naive. I know that one night of education, camaraderie, and celebration isn't going to solve the problems we face in workers' compensation.
But it's a start.
Every conference I go to around the nation there is a recurring theme: silos.
Each independent interest in workers' compensation has their own conference or two.
Attorneys that represent injured workers have their own conferences; Employers have their own conferences; Physicians and the medical community have their own conferences; there are even smaller gatherings for regulators, special vendors, researchers, insurance executives, and sub-specialty gatherings.
Even the single biggest gathering of broad workers' compensation participants, the annual WCI Conference in Orlando, FL every August, is still a hegemony of special interests - there are a dozen different education tracks that cater to each of the silos but none that speak to everyone.
Each of these conferences and seminars come with content specific to the interests of their singular groups, each of them focused on how to take advantage of some aspect of the system or law to minimize costs or maximize outcomes.
Not one of these gatherings includes injured workers. Many include their representatives, but that faction again speaks to their own interests first, and the needs of the beneficiaries second. And not one of them tells success stories.
For every story of failure, grief and hardship that we read about in the general media, there are dozens of stories where individuals go above and beyond to good outcomes, and sometimes these stories are of compelling, remarkable accomplishments.
Comp Laude is the only event where everyone from all segments of workers’ compensation are not only welcome, but encouraged, to attend and participate: executives, injured workers, claimant attorneys, defense attorneys, doctors, case managers, claims adjusters, researchers - you name it.
My goal is to get EVERYONE under one roof at a nice event where people actually TALK AND LISTEN to one another, hear the stories, and understand all the diverging points, conflicts, interests, and perhaps, come to some understanding as to why certain things are the way they are.
At a time when workers' compensation, as a system, is under attack from the general media, the public, and lawmakers, it's important that we come together.
We don't have to change the way things are, and we don't have to solve all that ills workers' compensation.
We just need to come to a collective understanding of why things are the way they are.
It is my hope that we will, with Comp Laude, eventually help shape policy for the future that benefits all of society.
It’s a big mission and a big risk.
But the dream is compelling to me. That dream drives me like a locomotive pulling a train, a long train filled with many people on a singular destination.
Some may disembark, some may never get aboard. Those that do ride along, I know, are aligned with that dream - that the single largest privatized social benefit system in the world can not only work, but work well, protecting people and businesses and provide stability to the economy.
We've made it easy for YOU to attend. We have special pricing for injured workers and claims examiners. We have deals for professionals that are members of recognized associations (nearly all of them!). Bring a Toy for Tots and there's a discount.
We're all in this thing together. We need to recognize that, if for only one night.