IAIABC: Please provide an organizational profile (number of employees, years in business, where you do business, organizational vision)
Scott Brener, Senior Vice President and General Council, SFM: Established in 1983, SFM has served as the dominant writer of workers' compensation within Minnesota for over 25 years. Headquartered in Bloomington, Minnesota, we serve employers of all sizes and types based in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. We also provide coverage to employers with out-of-state operations in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma and Tennessee amounting to over 20,000 policyholders. Our mission is to be the workers' compensation partner of choice for agents, employers, and injured workers through unrivaled service, expertise and commitment to workplace safety.
IAIABC: How does your organization serve the workers’ compensation industry or what do you see as the most important role you play in the workers’ compensation industry?
SB: As one of the few true mono-line workers’ compensation insurers within our community, SFM is better suited to work the nuances and distinguishing characteristics of our complex market. We offer dedicated locally based claims professionals which average 15 years of industry experience; experienced injury prevention experts who understand unique safety hazards associated with the industry; in-house nurses and occupational therapists who help injured workers return to work and assist in long term treatment plans; on-site physicians who advise claims reps on complex medical issues and review diagnoses and treatment plans; in-house bill review professionals who help reduce costs on medical bills; on-site attorneys who represent SFM policyholders in litigation and help claim reps on difficult cases; subrogation specialists who recover money when injuries involve third parties; and fraud investigators who evaluate and pursue claims with red flags.
IAIABC: What do you see as some of the major challenges the industry is facing, and how can we as a community address them?
SB: The industry faces numerous challenges as it moves into its second centennial. One primary area of concern relates to the utilization and price of medical treatment. Medical expense comprises approximately 70% of the benefit spend within our system and is often used as a provider profit center to offset medical spend within the Medicare and Medicaid space. Such practice often results in inflated pricing, needless medical procedure and over prescribing of pharmaceuticals including opioids. The IAIABC has been a thought leader with respect to the development of fair and reasonable fee schedules and treatment guidelines. I hope that the organization continues to lead within the context of this debate.
Secondly, workplaces and employees are maturing and are approaching employment practices in new and unique ways. In some ways, work habits are becoming more transit and illusionary which is redefining the traditional employer/employee relationship. Our industry must find products which will allow for the protection of risk within this new universe.
Thirdly, our industry is being confronted with technology opportunity at an ever-increased pace. Consumers want coverage quicker, easier and more defined in scope than ever before. Such market pressure will ultimately redefine the underwriting practices and marketing angles of the industry. Market changes generally result in the need for regulatory change. In this capacity the IAIABC could help lead in needed regulatory evolution by promoting and educating appropriate governmental leaders on the changing landscape of the workers’ compensation market.
IAIABC: Are there any projects/programs/initiatives going on at your organization that you are particularly excited or enthusiastic about?
SB: SFM has always been focused on giving back. Because we were initially born through the action of the Minnesota state legislature, we continue to be a valuable source of strength to our affected state political systems. SFM continually assists to the needs of our regulatory friends by providing reliable data resources, industry expertise and management support to affected programs within state government.
Another unique way we give back is through the SFM Foundation, a nonprofit we created to ease the burdens on families affected by workplace accidents. To do this, the Foundation provides post-secondary education scholarships to children of parents fatally or seriously injured while working for any Minnesota or Iowa employer. Since 2008, approximately $1.7 million has been committed to support 151 scholarships which has been conducted 100% through the voluntary actions of our employees.
Beyond the scope of charitable giving, SFM has entered into the world of insurance technology. Throughout the last year many of us have served as mentors to a variety of start-ups which are seeking to improve the business practices and outcomes of our market. In this capacity, we have also assisted in the angel financing of many such enterprises.
IAIABC: Why is your organization a member of the IAIABC? What would you tell others about the benefits of membership?
SB: From my perspective, the IAIABC serves as the public policy leader within the field of workers’ compensation. Comprised of the vast majority of US state jurisdictions, Canadian provinces and additional sovereign nations, the IAIABC can realistically help develop, message and market trends and solutions facing our industry. It serves as the only point of conversation that focuses exclusively on the needs of the workers’ compensation community through white paper drafting, EDI standard development, model rule creation, etc.
As an Associate Member, I believe I assist in bringing ideas, trends and market realization to those who ultimately take responsibility for painting the very regulatory landscape which we all participate within. I would strongly encourage any entity and/or constituency engaged in the activities of workers’ compensation to come take a peek at what the IAIABC is up to. If they are wise, they will find themselves enlisting for the long haul!