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Paduda: General Impressions of National Comp Conference

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Yes, attendance on the first day of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference in Las Vegas was way down.

Joe Paduda

Joe Paduda

Yes, the exhibit hall was pretty quiet.

Yes, it was really good to see old friends and colleagues, to reconnect and just smile at each other live, in person, and not in 2-D.

Yes, it was a bit hard to connect names to faces when those faces haven’t been seen live in too long and were mostly covered by masks.

And, yes, dealing with reading glasses, hearing aids (yep, that’s me) and masks can be pretty challenging.

So what’s new?

Mental health/behavioral health were big topics, and that is excellent/terrific/welcome indeed. Carisk announced a partnership with Tower MSA and Ametros to help resolve and settle claims. Behavioral health issues are often the primary reason claimants are reluctant to settle. (Carisk is a Health Strategies Associates consulting client.)

Artificial intelligence. Lots of AI. Tons of AI. Fraud detection AI. Claim processing AI. voice response AI. Chatbot AI. My bet is we’ll be seeing even more of it, as the biggest challenge most payers have these days is staffing.

In catching up with colleagues in the payer world, everyone noted that adjusting talent is:

  • Getting older.
  • Getting crankier (well, this is a bit unfair, but adjuster dissatisfaction was definitely a topic).
  • Leaving for better pay.
  • Leaving for better conditions (be careful — the grass may well be greener because there is more fertilizer on it).
  • Really hard to find.

So, here comes AI to hopefully increase job satisfaction and reduce the number of low-value clerical-type tasks so adjusters can actually, you know, manage claims.

And, adding behavioral health expertise to the claims management process will help reduce claim inventory, further reducing adjusters’ workloads.

Enlyte is the new name for the Mitchell/Genex/Coventry business. Personally, I’m not a fan. I would have preferred Magic, as that’s way cooler and kind of ties back to the MGC thing. Also not a fan of the consolidation of all customer-facing stuff into a central entity.

In a past life, I sold group insurance for Liberty Mutual. While I was really good at selling group health and disability, I was way less than any good at selling retirement plans, which I had to do if I was going to get the commission multiplier.

No one else was any good at it, either — so much so that Liberty dropped the requirement that we sell retirement plans.

Nina Smith has the unenviable task of trying to get Mitchell bill review people to sell Genex stuff, Coventry’s network experts to sell Genex stuff ... you get the picture. OK, you say, Mitchell has been “selling” networks for a long time, Coventry used to sell bill review and Genex has been doing both. While this seems pretty straightforward, it is not. I can assure you it will take a lot of time, a lot of handholding and a lot of patience.

Masks were required, but I saw too many people, including some I know well, who didn’t wear them. That is disrespectful at best and just not smart. The reason:

  • Attendance was way down.
  • Many companies didn’t attend.
  • This country hasn’t gotten back to “normal," which means claims counts are still low and premiums are, too.

This is because too many people have listened to claptrap and nonsense (I know, I really want to swear) and for whatever dumb and completely unfounded reason won’t wear a mask to protect the rest of us, and themselves.

I feel for the event planners and folks behind this. While I don’t have official attendance numbers, this place is nowhere near as busy as it has been at past events. No taxi line, no problem getting a table for breakfast, fewer folks walking around in business casual.

Putting on a conference is a shipload of work, especially these days. While I lament the very real issue of pay-to-play, the conference owners need to make a buck, something they haven’t for far too long.

What does this mean for you?

Until and unless we all get vaccinated and wear masks, we will not put COVID in the rearview mirror.

I thanked Denise Algire and Michelle Kerr for all the work that went into this, and you should too.

Joseph Paduda is co-owner of CompPharma, a consulting firm focused on improving pharmacy programs in workers’ compensation. This column is republished with his permission from his Managed Care Matters blog.

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