Focus on 5-TOP of Mind in 2020 for Work Comp Executives
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By NCCI Insights January 07, 2020




Just as the ball drops in Times Square to officially ring in the new year, NCCI starts off the new year sharing critical insights from its annual survey of workers compensation insurer executives from across the nation.

Looking ahead toward the new decade, NCCI reveals its Focus on 5, the definitive list of issues that are top of mind for workers compensation industry leaders. These are the critical questions that the more than 100 executives surveyed are asking:

  1. Will insurers be able to react quickly enough to preserve rate adequacy if trends shift?
  2. How does an aging and changing workforce affect key industry drivers such as claims frequency and severity, along with wage and employment levels?
  3. What does the future hold for medical care costs given so many variables, such as emerging healthcare technology and treatments, issues related to opioids and marijuana in the workplace, and mega-claims associated with seriously ill or injured workers?
  4. Will the gig economy ever grow to the extent that it affects the traditional workforce? And will insurers develop innovative products to serve that market?
  5. How will rapidly changing workplace technology affect American jobs and the workers comp industry? Can regulation and legislation keep pace?
Focus on 5

A deeper dive on the critical 5

Workers compensation leaders are taking proactive steps to answer these questions and keep their respective organizations ahead of the game. Here’s what they’re saying, and what they’re doing to address them:

Rate adequacy

What they’re saying: Leaders told us they’re closely monitoring the sustained trend of declining loss costs reported by rating bureaus. They see competition for business is changing and increasing, and they’re feeling the impact of slowed growth due to lower premiums.

What they’re doing: To address rating adequacy, many are investing in predictive analytics to help with pricing and dedicating more resources to actuarial research and analysis. Insurers are closely evaluating and monitoring risks for the purposes of acceptability, pricing and coverage.

Aging/changing workforce

What they’re saying: Insurers are following the dynamics of the aging and changing workforce, and how it impacts claims frequency and severity. As more employees work beyond traditional retirement age, there will be new complications in health coverage due to the more complex medical conditions of workers. Many are also monitoring the increase in hiring of unskilled workers and how that impacts workplace safety.

What they’re doing: They’re spending more time educating others on the challenges of an aging workforce, while closely monitoring contract workers and following up on employer audits of their workforces. An overall focus on workplace safety and education remain important priorities in the new year.

Medical care costs

What they’re saying: Given rapid changes in medical technology and treatments, leaders are uncertain about this key component of workers comp costs and say it’s difficult to forecast where costs are heading. Though mega-claims are infrequent, they can have an enormous, unexpected impact on costs. Amid uncertainty, leaders remain focused on assuring adequate care for injured workers.

What they’re doing: Insurers are taking a variety of proactive steps, including working with physicians and specialists to ensure that they’re not overprescribing treatments or medications. They're enhancing claims systems to enable deeper analysis of complex medical cases. Some are promoting and partnering with providers on new, smart solutions such as artificial intelligence and telemedicine.

Gig economy

What they’re saying: Many leaders wonder if the impacts of the gig economy are more hype than reality, and if it will ever really grow to the point that it impacts workers compensation premium levels in a material way. Given that many states are considering or passing legislation on the gig economy, insurers are dealing with the complexity of regulation that varies from state to state. Seeing increasing numbers of independent contractors, they’re wondering, “How do we offer them benefits?”

What they’re doing: Survey respondents say they’re evaluating alternative coverage options for gig workers. Most are closely monitoring state legislative activity and court cases to stay abreast of these evolving workplace trends. Some insurers have established research teams specifically to track the evolution of the gig economy and other related socio-economic trends.

Rapidly changing technology

What they’re saying: Leaders are balancing the need to understand and address rapid technological changes in the workplace while recognizing that corresponding regulation is relatively slow in coming. They’re watching for any uptick in automation that could impact employment and payroll levels. They also say there’s an opportunity to generate better analytics as technology delivers more and better data sources.

What they’re doing: Insurers say that they’re adapting to new technology—and the opportunity that it provides—in a variety of ways, such as exploring wearable technology and the data it generates—and are considering alternatives for policy delivery systems for employers and their workers.

NCCI Thought Leadership

At the start of each new year, NCCI publishes its Focus on 5 survey results and a summary of the research insights NCCI has developed throughout the year on those five key topics. NCCI continues to update its focus and content based on stakeholder feedback to help drive informed decision making in the industry. To stay up to date on NCCI’s research, please visit our INSIGHTS portal.

Here’s a look at recent NCCI research on these key topics:

Rate adequacy

Aging/changing workforce

Medical care costs

Gig economy

Rapidly changing technology

Other key topics:

​This article is provided solely as a reference tool to be used for informational purposes only. The information in this article shall not be construed or interpreted as providing legal or any other advice. Use of this article for any purpose other than as set forth herein is strictly prohibited.

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