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Employers Hold Key to Speedy Return to Work for Injured Employees

The key to keeping down the cost of workers' compensation\r\ninsurance claims and expediting an injured employee's return to work rests with employers.

The key to keeping down the cost of workers'' compensation insurance claims and expediting an employee''s healthy, speedy recovery and return to work rests with employers -- not injured employees.

This message was part of a presentation "The Fine Art of Negotiating Return to Work Settlements," given by Pamela Rippens, assistant vice president, Specialty Risk Services (SRS), at the National Workers'' Compensation and Disability Management Conference in Chicago last week.

Approximately 1,500 risk management specialists attended the conference.

"Resolving workers'' compensation claims is easier and less costly if a strong employer/employee relationship exists from the date of injury through the resolution," explained Rippens. "Employers have numerous opportunities to facilitate return to work, so it''s a matter of jumping in to make it happen."

Rippens told conference participants that this includes providing information on the demands of the work environment to treating physicians, inventorying and offering the injured worker modified or transitional duties within the company, providing an employer/employee advocate and using case managers as relationship managers.

Even something as simple as a weekly phone call to the employee to update that person on what is going on in the company can help an employee remain connected to the firm and come back faster.

Rippens cited one example of a West Coast employer who lowered claim costs by 10 percent after initiating an active return-to-work program.

"Savings won''t always be that dramatic, but when you add the soft costs to a company with extended worker absence, they can be quite significant," said Rippens.

Early reporting of compensation injuries also can result in significant savings.

A recent claim study by The Hartford showed claims reported 29 days or more after an accident result in about a 45 percent increase in loss costs.

"Handling workers'' compensation claims from the date of injury, through return to work, settlement and case closure is a cooperative effort among all the parties involved -- the employer, third-party administrator/carrier, physicians, case management firms and the injured employee."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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