Monday, September 9, 2013

An Angel Down Below

It is not typical that I have a tough time writing about workers' compensation issues. Since a youngster in grammar school I have always had an ability to at least buffalo my way through an essay assignment even if I didn't know what to write.

But I woke up this morning with vapidity between the ears. Nothing was touching me. Nothing in the news seemed to matter.

It's all the same old stuff: some employer wrongfully denies a case and gets slapped by a court; rates go up, rates go down; doctors don't get paid; someone collects benefit checks illegally and gets jailed; regulators are accused of rewriting statutory mandates, etc.

It just gets so uninspiring at times.

When I am at the keyboard musing potential topics with no clear direction, like I am right now, I wonder where the good is in workers' compensation.

Everywhere I turn it just seems to be bad news.

Maybe this is just journalism in general. Bad news. Bombings, chemical warfare, political strife, murders, kidnappings, rapes, burglaries, shootings.


I know deep in my heart that workers' compensation can do some remarkable things when it is allowed to work as intended - someone gets hurt, they get treatment, a little cash for the inconvenience, and they're back to work.

Such cases aren't reported because, perhaps, these are the norms.

What does get reported are the outliers - the cases that attract attention because they are not routine. Something happens along the way in such cases that caused a deviation from the median.

I don't know what the exact statistics are, but it is is well known that the vast majority of expense in workers' compensation comes from a very minute minority of claims. These get our attention because they are not normal - and we wonder how can we bring such situations back into the mainstream, to match the median.

So I decided after typing away at the first paragraphs above to focus on some good news about good people doing good things.

One of these people is in Australia. Australia has workers' compensation that is similar to what is in the United States, though not 50 different sets of laws...

And probably the most unsung hero in workers' compensation lives and works, gratuitously I might add, in Australia helping injured workers get through the system, regain some composure in life and return to as normal of a productive working life as possible.

This person is Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson.

I know her only through the Internet - primarily through LinkedIn, but we have communicated via other Internet means as well.

She is a former injured worker who went through the mill, experienced its pitfalls, but also saw its benefits. After her case was done she felt that there were others similarly situated who could use some assistance, and her philosophy, mind-set and drive has, in my opinion, made her a thought leader in workers' compensation.

For reasons that I don't understand, and perhaps it is better that way, Rosemary (hyphenated last names are too much for me to type...) has been able to eliminate the chafe in workers' compensation by working with the only two stakeholders that really matter: the injured worker and the employer:

"The outcome needs to be balanced for the two important parties, they being the employer and the injured worker," she posted. "It would be very easy to demand gold plated outcomes for injured workers, however I also know that the levies paid by the employers increase when claims get stuck."

In one post she commented on how she attended a case conference that included all of the usual players, but she advocated for BOTH the employer and the employee. She said "it made for a very short and most interesting case conference." 

I bet it did! Imagine, someone stepping in to make mediate where others simply have no interest in getting the right thing done.

She says, "I am not angry - anger is a wasted emotion - I carry no malice."

That is the most profound statement anyone could make when dealing with claims. 

She continues, "I am frustrated because I know what is possible and I know how very easy it is to remove the obstacles that the workers' compensation system has created in order to feed itself."

How true Rosemary. Workers' compensation has so many obstacles that seem to be in place now just to feed itself.

That Rosemary continues to do the work that she does, with the limited resources she has, is amazing to me. She has tons of success stories, and frankly few failures.

So there you have it - I got through my writer's block by thinking of good things.

You should think good things too - Rosemary is a shining example of someone who puts the best interests of those who actually need the support first, and she does it with little to no money.

Which brings me to my closing - contact Rosemary via LinkedIn and find out how YOU can help too. Whether it is donating money to her non-profit organization so she can continue to do the good work, or getting trained to further her good will through out the workers' compensation world, Rosemary is a gem and shines brightly in this otherwise very rough and dirty world.

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