Looking through the lenses of the past, the traditional California workers’ compensation issues such as medical inflation, claims fraud and frictional costs seem less significant today in comparison to the events caused throughout the world, U.S. and California by the coronavirus, COVID-19. While we shelter in place working remotely from our homes with concern for families and colleagues and watching this human and economic tragedy unfold, it is not difficult at all to imagine just hitting the pause button on workers’ compensation.
However, I know that those of us in the insurance industry are not wired that way – we care for others, strangers mostly, who need our help and protection when times are bad for them. We will step up in ways not yet imagined to weather this storm, as our industry has weathered many storms before. I am proud to be in this industry, for nearly 40 years of my life. It is a calling, as I am sure it is for my colleagues.
Right now, the WCIRB is leaning in with research and proposed regulations to assist the insurance industry and California’s employers in this time of need. Through understanding grounded by data and with practical recommendations we are helping to make a difference for all stakeholders.
As we think beyond this current crisis and toward the future, one of our key priorities is preparing the next generation of leaders in our industry to take the helm and navigate the way forward. Their seas over these past several years have for the most part been calm in workers’ compensation – in fact, unprecedentedly so in California. It has been a historic period where employers are now paying some of the lowest rates in decades, where injured workers have received greater benefits and insurance companies have had a run of seven consecutive accident years of industry-wide combined ratios under 100 (the WCIRB projects the 2019 California accident year will be below 100). This is not our new normal, and the teachable moments to steer a steady course are all around us today. What was calm is now anything but so.
Pandemic, cyber risk and data privacy are among the new “keep us up at night” realities in addition to the myriad of issues we have learned to manage through in workers’ compensation. What lies ahead? It will be a challenging period of time for our industry and the many customers who we collectively serve. We know that. Together, however, we will persevere, protect, teach and navigate forward. In that, I am confident.
Pivoting to the WCIRB and my 180 colleagues who proudly serve our industry and our fellow citizens of California, we have strategically transformed the company over this past decade. While staying grounded to our core responsibilities in pure premium ratemaking, experience rating, industry classifications and the stewardship of data, we have also led the way with dynamic information services, deep industry analytics and forward-looking research.
We are charting a course to illuminate new insights into the cost drivers in California’s workers’ compensation system. Enabled by groundbreaking work, broad industry collaborations, expanded products and services and critical thinking about the challenges and opportunities on the horizon, our “North Star” remains a healthy workers’ compensation ecosystem for all of its stakeholders.
2019 was another strong year in fulfillment of our Mission, as we strengthened the leadership of the company, hardened the business operations, expanded outreach and education and continued to develop and mentor the next generation.
WCIRB research and reporting on the workers’ compensation system continue to be highly regarded and valued by our stakeholders, with webinars that accompany most reports enabling the audience to interact directly with WCIRB authors and experts. Our research aims to inform and frame up issues that drive the system’s costs and to enable discussions among diverse stakeholders on a level playing field using objective and trusted source data provided by the WCIRB. Keep an eye out later this year for our planned research release on mega-claims.
The 2019 medical analytics research highlighted the emerging drivers for reduced medical costs and opioid use in the California workers’ compensation system, including early use of physical medicine and implementation of the drug formulary.
In 2019, the WCIRB continued its journey to fully embrace the emerging business strategy of customer experience (CX) and established an inaugural enterprise-level “beacon” metric for customer perceptions of value and service. WCIRB leadership examined operational customer touchpoints, customer perceptions and product and service delivery utilizing new customer listening methodologies, which revealed actionable insights. As this operating ethos continues to gain momentum, we will increasingly engage directly with customers at the early stages of the product and service development lifecycle process. The holistic CX approach of both analytical framework and increased customer interactivity will help to level-up WCIRB operational execution and tap into unrealized customer value.
Our values define the WCIRB’s culture and guide the way we work with our customers and each other. By being service oriented, innovative, outcome driven, collaborative and acting with integrity, we reinforce our business responsibilities and strive to be a “best place to work.”