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The near-silence of the lambs…or, it’s still the work comp industry’s fault.

My post on the inability/unwillingness of work comp payers to talk publicly about the good work their employees do generated a bunch of emails and a few comments from the few payers that actually do try to get that message out.

Kudos to those payers for trying; doing something is far better than doing nothing. And I do NOT want the rest of this post to be seen as anything other than constructive criticism.  And thanks very much to the folks who got in touch and commented.


Two issues – these folks are very much the exception to the rule.  Fact is the vast majority of payers rarely if ever share the positive news.

Which leads me to the second issue.  The folks that are doing some outreach almost without exception are bringing the proverbial knife to the gun fight.  YouTube posts, blog posts, and press releases are very few and very far between.  Some are pretty well done, but even the most prolific payers’ messaging is sporadic at best.

It is also rarely picked up by other media, so it sits there on their blog or YouTube channel, garnering a few hundred readers after a year or so.

Contrast that to the stories about heartless work comp insurers screwing injured patients in pursuit of the almighty dollar.  The media reach of bad news; ProPublica/NPR series, the Department of Labor’s discussion of work comp, and local media’s coverage of alleged bad behavior on the part of workers’ comp payers, adjusters, and medical management staff buries the good news about comp payers.

One other point; many payers’ press releases are rife with stories about their successes in catching claimants doing things they shouldn’t be able to, showing that the insurance company will find out if the poor “claimant” (I hate that word) is really able to walk without a cane.

While that messaging may discourage the occasional “fraud”, it’s more likely this PR effort does more damage than good.

Come on, folks.  While you may think this discourages the very few potential bad actors out there who are looking to game the system, the overall message is the giant, omnipotent, all-powerful insurance company vs the poor guy or gal trying to get by on a paltry average weekly wage that’s nowhere near enough to meet their financial needs.

So, what to do?

  • individual companies need to develop a strategy – a long-term strategy – to figure out how they want to be perceived and why.
  • commit to it, follow thru, and be consistent
  • work together in local markets and nationally to get that message out.
  • don’t be an insurance company – be innovative, interesting, engaging, occasionally funny, compassionate.
  • tell stories – about claimants, about the real, live, moms and dads that work for your company trying to make sure the patients they are responsible for get better and their families are protected.
  • don’t let execs’ fear of doing anything remotely risky stop you.

What does this mean for you?

If you don’t say who you are and what you stand for in a way that connects with people, you’re screwed.


3 thoughts on “The near-silence of the lambs…or, it’s still the work comp industry’s fault.”

  1. Spot on! Corporations need to do a much better job of caring about and communicating with their employees, as well as letting their coworkers know about the great job individuals are doing to make a difference.

  2. The industry needs to listen to the outsiders, and not go after them like a certain blogger has, attacking a good idea and the promoter. The industry should follow the nine points I made the other day.

  3. Thanks Joe for the posts the last two days. There will always be some bad apples in any industry or with injured patients. I believe there are more good than bad from an injured worker perspective. As a medical provider, I give the patients benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise on how the injury happened and what body parts may be involved.
    Unfortunately sometimes the adjusters will challenge the patient with only lay person knowledge of medical and put him or her on the defensive.
    Sometimes even a minor injury brings out anxiety and fear in all of us. A big part of the patient care is easing the fear and unknowns of how to manage the overall situation. I can usually do a good job at getting the worker back to work. Very rarely have I received a thanks from employer risk managers or adjusters. Likewise I can’t recall a patient telling me they were praised for following medical advice and getting back to full duty as soon as possible.
    Sorry for any typos from the iPhone
    K Scott MD

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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