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Colorado – Pinnacol Assurance
Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper recently asked a Special Committee of Pinnacol’s Board of Directors to examine Pinnacol Assurance’s business practices. In June, the Special Committee released the results of its three-month examination in a comprehensive report that was delivered to the governor. The report revealed that the committee found nothing in Pinnacol’s operations that fell beyond the reasonable practices of a company charged with competing in the mutual insurance marketplace. The specific and limited areas of improvement that were highlighted in the report have been addressed by Pinnacol’s management.
Pinnacol Assurance issued its seventh consecutive general dividend to policyholders in May. The company returned $41.25 million in general dividends to Colorado businesses that effectively managed their claims and maintained safe workplaces. With this year’s distribution, the company has returned a total of just over $435 million in general dividends to Colorado’s business community. Statewide, Pinnacol issued dividend checks to over 50,000 qualifying businesses in all of the state’s 64 counties.
In the first six months of 2011, Pinnacol provided free or low cost training to more than 800 policyholders. These training opportunities included a variety of policyholder seminars, the second annual Bilingual Conference on Workplace Safety and the second annual Risk Management Symposiums in Denver and Grand Junction. In the remaining half of 2011, Pinnacol will continue to offer a variety of policyholder seminars as well as OSHA 10-hour training classes that will provide a review of key construction safety and health standards.
Pinnacol has updated all of its claims management and return-to-work resources and made them available online through the company’s website. These resources, which are available exclusively to policyholders, contain the most current information, forms, templates and tips employers need in order to get their employees the medical attention they require, and to get them back to work as quickly as possible.
Pinnacol has always encouraged their employees to recognize the exceptional performance of their peers through a company-sponsored reward program. This year, in an effort to respond to employees requests for a wider variety of reward choices as well to better enable managers to track employee rewards and recognition, Pinnacol overhauled its employee recognition program. “Peak Rewards,” Pinnacol’s newly revamped program, which was rolled out in May, includes more than 200 retail, travel and entertainment options. The new program gives individuals and teams a bank of points to distribute. It also features corporate and team-level recognition programs and allows managers to track reward point distribution and employee feedback.
Louisiana – Louisiana Workers' Compensation Corporation
LWCC Debuts Mobile Safety Training Center
LWCC has introduced yet another way it can deliver free dynamic safety training to its policyholders—the new Mobile Safety Training Center, a 24-foot-long trailer that debuted at a Louisiana agent convention held in Florida in June.
The Mobile Safety Training Center is capable of providing classroom-style training and features satellite Internet access. The center, which is fully insulated and climate controlled, can accommodate 11 learners, each with a 17-inch laptop computer for accessing online safety courses and exams. A 42-inch television is used for training that is conducted via the Internet, PowerPoint, or DVD.
In the event of a disaster or emergency, LWCC’s agency partners will be able to use the center as a temporary office.
Considering that many policyholders have neither the facilities nor Internet access to provide safety training conveniently and cost-effectively, the Mobile Safety Training Center is the latest example of how LWCC’s Safety and Loss Prevention Department is using technology to help policyholders protect their employees.
For nearly two years LWCC has also offered policyholders access to free, 24-hour online safety training as well as the Virtual Driver Interactive, a computer-based driving simulator used to promote safety on the roadways.
Maryland - IWIF Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Legislation passed this year by the Maryland General Assembly affecting IWIF includes HB 70/ SB 85. This budget bill affects IWIF in that it requires IWIF to pay a premium tax of 2 percent going forward under the same Maryland tax code applied to other property/casualty insurers doing business in Maryland. It also requires IWIF to pay an additional $4 million in tax liabilities to the state retroactive to January 1, 2011.
Another bill, HB 598 states that effective July 1, 2011, IWIF employees are no longer controlled by the impact of executive orders regarding pay. It reflects the fact that IWIF is seen more as a business rather than a state agency. As of July 1, it allows IWIF to be removed from the pay restrictions such as furloughs and pay freezes that all state employees will continue to have to contend with in the upcoming fiscal year.
Congratulations to IWIF Board Chair Patricia McHugh Lambert, Esq., and IWIF Senior Vice President of Communications Donna Wilson, who were each named one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women by The Daily Record. The award recognizes outstanding achievement by women as demonstrated through professional accomplishment, community leadership and mentoring.
IWIF received a coveted 2011 Bronze Anvil Award of Commendation from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for superior performance in the design and execution of an individual public relations tactic within a broader public relations campaign. IWIF received a 2011 Bronze Anvil Award of Publications category for its English/Spanish Safety Pocket Guides. Each guide addresses basic safety issues for the landscaping, construction and restaurant indurstries.
It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Frank D. Boston, Jr., a respected IWIF Board member who served with distinction since 2005. Mr. Boston passed away May 10, 2011. During his tenure, he served as Treasurer and chaired the finance committee where he played an integral role in attending to IWIF’s financial strength and viability.
IWIF recently launched a redesigned and expanded website in June. The driving force behind restructuring the site was to give the various stakeholders of the company easier access to the information they required to successfully interact with IWIF. Other new features of the site include well-defined customer portals; a contemporary look; faster eServices login; vastly improved interfacing for agents, business owners and medical providers; and streamlined navigation to make finding information and transacting business with IWIF easier and more efficient. A brand new feature of the site includes the IWIF Safety University, a section that houses helpful workplace safety tools, tips and videos in one convenient location. All IWIF Safety University content is easy to download and free of charge.
Missouri — Missouri Employers Mutual
MEM Supports Important Efforts for Joplin
Due to the recent tragic storms that ripped through Joplin, Mo. and surrounding areas, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed Executive Order 11-12, providing emergency protection for insurance coverage for Joplin-area residents. The order—effective May 22-June 20, 2011, unless extended by the governor— temporarily forbids insurance companies from filing a rate increase or canceling coverage for residents of Jasper and Newton counties.
The order includes workers compensation insurance, so MEM worked quickly to make changes in our systems to comply with the restrictions.
Even quicker was the response from MEM and employees to support Joplin. MEM donated $5,000 to the American Red Cross, while employees rallied together and collected more than $800 for the Heart of Missouri United Way. A portion of the employees’ contribution also assisted one of MEM’s partnering agencies located in Joplin.
2011 WorkSAFE Week: There are No Accidents
MEM celebrated WorkSAFE Week 2011 by spreading the word that There are No Accidents. Policyholders and producers were reminded that workplace injuries are predictable, probable and preventable—not “accidents” at all.
To mark WorkSAFE Week, MEM focused on four critical safety topics in information on http://www.worksafecenter.comand printed materials:
Montana - Montana State Fund
Montana Passes sweeping Work Comp Legislation
The passage of House Bill 334 in the Montana legislature introduced change of historic proportions to the workers’ compensation system in the state. HB334 represents a great deal of work and compromise by a diverse mix of Montana stakeholders.
What does HB334 Mean for Our Policyholders?
First and foremost, HB 334 provides significant rate relief to Montana employers which will help them reduce their operating costs allowing expansion, salary and benefit increases, and in some cases helping them keep their doors open, strengthening the overall Montana economy. Our board of directors endorsed a 20 percent average premium rate drop for our policyholders that took effect July 1, 2011.
In summary, the legislation addressed medical costs and benefits: medical benefits terminate after 5 years but may be extended by a medical panel (excluding repair or replacement of prosthetics and for workers who are permanently totally disabled); modified when workers are eligible for impairment ratings; provided for approval or designation of the treating physician by the insurer; allows for retroactive payment of benefits in the 4 day waiting period after 21 days; increases the weeks available for permanent partial disability; put in place a tiered fee schedule for physicians; clarifies when a worker is in the course and scope of employment and allows for closure of medical benefits through settlement. HB 334 also provides additional focus to help injured workers return to stay at work or return to work after an injury.
Lastly, HB 334 provides tremendous opportunities for Montana State Fund employees to demonstrate our commitment to be part of the solution for what has troubled our workers’ compensation system for some time. It reinforces our steadfast commitment of outstanding customer service to every individual.
New Board Members Announced
Governor Brian Schweitzer recently appointed three new Board of Director members: Elizabeth Best of Great Falls (Chair) , Joe Brenneman of Kalispell, and Wayne Dykstra of Billings. These experienced leaders join current members Jane DeBruycker, Ken Johnson, James Swanson and Tom Heisler.
The Montana State Fund Board of Directors consists of seven individuals that must meet certain eligibility requirements and serve a four-year term on a staggered basis. Their specific responsibilities as provided in law include: Ratemaking, declaring dividends, approving an annual strategic business plan, establishing the annual operating budget, determining the appropriate surplus levels and submitting an annual financial report. In addition, the Board retains major independent accounting and actuarial firms to validate the Funds’ financial position and reserves. The Board also has the responsibility to hire the MSF CEO.
A Degree in Safety:
WorkSafe Champions Graduate Third Class
They represent all types of occupations from across Montana, but this group of 57 employees have one thing in common— their commitment to participate in MSF’s WorkSafe Champions program. WorkSafe Champions is a 12-month intensive safety education program that trains participants to become safety advocates. These advocates are instrumental in creating a culture of safety across Montana.
“This program has really surpassed our expectations, said Wayne Dillavou, MSF Safety Services Leader. “The reason it is so successful is totally due to the employees and employers who have committed many hours of training and study to help make their workplace safer and try to turn around Montana’s horrendous injury rates.”
Since the program’s inception in 2008, a total of 159 individuals have graduated from the WorkSafe Champions program. A fourth WorkSafe Champions class with 73 students began their road to safety in June.
Northwest Territories and Nunavut
54th Annual Mine Rescue Competition
The Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC) invites each mine in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to enter a team in an effort to win the Overall Surface or Overall Underground Trophies. Every June, participating teams compete at events held in Yellowknife. The champions move on to compete in the Western Regional Mine Rescue Competition, held every two years. The Western Regional Competition hosts winning teams from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, and the three Territories, plus the north-western states of Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota. The 10th Western Regional event takes place in Fernie, British Columbia, September 9 – 10, 2011.
Mine rescue competitions allow mines to evaluate and compare the effectiveness and quality of their mine rescue training programs. If a mine has a major incident, teams from mines in other provinces or territories may work together to accomplish the rescue. Competitions allow these teams to work together and understand how other teams work.
The Mine Rescue Competition takes place Friday, June 10, and Saturday, June 11. The Competition will test the mine rescue skills of seven teams from four competing mines: BHP Billiton – EKATI, Rio Tinto Diavik Diamond Mine, De Beers Canada – Snap Lake, and Capstone Mining Corporation – Minto Mine. This is the first time mines from all three Territories will take part in the Competition.
Both Surface and Underground teams go head to head in seven events, which include: Written Test, Practical Bench/Field Test, Fire Fighting, Underground Obstacle, Smoke, Rope Rescue, First Aid, and Surface Obstacle/Recovery. Judges evaluate each of the events, ranging from simulated disasters to checking safety equipment.
Challenging stakeholders on Safety Street for 2011 North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week
In 2010, the WSCC introduced Safety Street, a virtual street representative of any street in the Northwest
Building on last year’s successful launch, the 2011 event featured the What’s Your Plan on Safety Street theme in Yellowknife. It included a team circuit, identifying personal protective equipment, hazards, and timed tasks. The event focused stakeholder teams’ attentions on the importance of planning in safety and injury prevention.
For the Nunavut celebrations, the WSCC hosted a safety trivia game show with teams from various businesses around Iqaluit participating, as well as a radio contest.
Across both Territories, the WSCC invited employers to submit their safety plans, and awarded prizes under three categories. It also held a tournament, challenging young workers to play its online game, One Life Logan, for NAOSH Week prizes, and invited younger children to participate in a ‘spot the hazard’ colouring
For the different audiences, the WSCC employed various promotional and delivery methods. With radio remaining a popular medium in the North, promotion included ads in both Territories for all of the NAOSH Week initiatives and a safety themed radio contest. Promotion for the team events included newspaper print ads, cold contacts, posters, invitation postcards, and a dedicated website with all of the information on the WSCC NAOSH Week events. Finally, to stimulate interest in the online game tournament targeted to young workers, the WSCC produced posters, contacted all the schools across both Territories, and built on the Don’t Be a Number young worker website and Facebook page.
The 2011 events were a success, reaching some of the smallest communities in the North, with requests and feedback for a bigger Safety Street for the 2012.
Update on Consultation for Proposed Safety Regulations
Over the last two years, the Safety Advisory Committee, appointed by the WSCC Ministers responsible, developed a draft set of new Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. The revisions aim to make the new Regulations better organized, updated, clearer, and easier to enforce. To involve stakeholders in the process, the Committee solicited feedback from September 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011. The Ministers and the Committee anticipate the consultation input will allow the new Regulations to better reflect stakeholder needs across the Territories.
The Safety Advisory Committee received almost 600 comments from 49 stakeholders, including workers, employers big and small, and unions – this commitment to Northern safety is impressive. The Committee began the process of compiling and researching the comments on March 31. Its next step is to produce a summary version of the comments, detailing the recommendations it will include in the draft Regulations and providing reasons for the recommendations not accepted. The Committee will send the summary to consultation participants and post it on the WSCC website by late August, 2011.
Ohio - Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation
Service, savings, and simplicity focus of Buehrer’s first six months of service
Since his appointment as Administrator/CEO of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) by Governor John Kasich in January, Stephen Buehrer has hit the ground running, examining how BWC can better meet the expectations of businesses and injured workers, and become part of Ohio’s economic revival.
Over his first six months of service, the former state senator has engaged employees and stakeholders on how to improve Ohio’s workers’ comp system by concentrating on the three key pillars of service, simplicity and savings:
“I look forward to working with BWC employees and all interested parties on behalf of Ohio’s employers and workers,” said Administrator Buehrer. “Together, we can ensure that our workers’ compensation system enhances Ohio’s business growth and development while also providing safe jobs. Helping to boost Ohio’s economy will be a part of our daily jobs.”
BWC cuts private employer rates by $65 million, targets additional savings with formulary and fight against prescription drug abuse
Ohio’s private employers will enjoy a total $65 million reduction in overall premium collections beginning July 1 when overall base rates will drop by 4 percent. Governor John Kasich joined BWC Administrator/CEO Stephen Buehrer to announce the cut aimed at reducing the overall cost of doing business to make Ohio companies and the state more competitive.
“Rates are a critical part of job growth decisions made by Ohio employers,” said Buehrer, noting that unlike prior years, the average rate reduction will apply to employers regardless of whether they participated in incentive programs such as group rating.
In another measure targeted to minimizing costs, BWC recently established its first outpatient prescription drug formulary that is expected to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of treatment and limit the inappropriate use of medications.
“Formularies are an industry standard that improve quality of care by enhancing the effectiveness and safety of the medications prescribed to Ohio’s injured workers while saving BWC an estimated $15 million,” said Buehrer.
The formulary was developed using all medications that BWC has approved during the past three years as a baseline and is expected to become effective by early September.
One benefit of the formulary is it aims to limit the inappropriate use of prescription medications, a problem Governor Kasich identified as an epidemic in Ohio. BWC quickly rose to Kasich’s challenge that all state agencies utilize using every tool at their disposal to help victims and fight those who abuse the law.
As part of an ongoing investigation, the BWC Special Investigations Department led a March raid of the offices of Dr. James E. Lundeen Sr., who treats hundreds of Ohio workers injured on the job. Dr. Lundeen’s prescribing habits caught the eye of investigators, who report receiving 19 allegations of billing, prescription and care irregularities involving the doctor.
Lundeen’s license to practice medicine was later suspended by the State Medical Board.
“While prescription narcotics can be a valid part of treatment, the inappropriate use of pain medicines in treating injured workers hurts the worker and constitutes fraud against the taxpayers and businesses of Ohio,” said Administrator Buehrer. “I hope our actions put those who would take advantage of Ohio’s injured workers on notice that it is something we absolutely will not tolerate.”
Looking back, thinking forward
With the signing of the Ohio Workmen’s Compensation Act on June 15, 1911, Ohio became one of the first in the nation to offer what was a groundbreaking idea - workers’ compensation insurance. A century later, BWC is proud to commemorate this historic anniversary, and reflect on the achievements and progress of the past 100 years.
In observance of this milestone, BWC has developed a commemorative brochure that celebrates the spirit of innovation that helped launch Ohio’s system. The piece, available at ohiobwc.com, was recognized with an AASCIF communications award during its annual conference in June.
New York - New York State Insurance Fund
Dennis Hayes Named
New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF) Board of Commissioners Chairman Robert H. Hurlbut announced the appointment of Dennis J. Hayes as Chief Executive Deputy Director of NYSIF, effective July 1, 2011.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recommended Mr. Hayes for appointment to the Fund on June 10. NYSIF’s Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the appointment at its regular board meeting, June 14.
Mr. Hayes has 29 years experience as an attorney specializing in insurance, reinsurance and receivership matters. He has been a senior executive at the New York Liquidation Bureau (NYLB) since 1996. He previously served as Assistant Special Deputy Superintendent of NYLB, where he oversaw the Reinsurance and Estate Management divisions since April 2007. He was named NYLB Special Deputy Superintendent in September 2009.
“NYSIF welcomes Chief Executive Deputy Director Hayes to the Fund,” Chairman Hurlbut said. “The Board, NYSIF’s Executive staff and our management team look forward to working together with Mr. Hayes, whose knowledge of the insurance industry and extensive experience will be an asset to NYSIF.”
Mr. Hayes started his career in the insurance industry in 1982 as an attorney for the New York Insurance Exchange. As an attorney in private practice from 1987 to 1996, he specialized in insurance, reinsurance and regulatory matters. From 2001 to 2003, Mr. Hayes was Executive Vice President and General Counsel to Recovery National Corporation, specializing in identifying and recovering unrealized reinsurance.
Mr. Hayes is a 1974 magna cum laude graduate of Saint Leo University and a 1981 graduate of St. John’s University School of Law. He and his wife, Marianne, have two children.
New Home Page
The New York State Insurance Fund web site – http://www.nysif.com launched a new home page on April 27. With fewer items than its predecessor, home page navigation is more focused on customers and stakeholders, streamlining usability for visitors.
The page consists of three main panels: items frequently visited by users; a section for individual stakeholders; and a third, “Newsroom” panel, compiling publications, safety topics, press releases and other features in one place.
Collins will replace Garry Robinson, who retired this spring after 30 years at SAIF. Collins, with more than 20 years experience in information technology, has held a variety of supervisory and management positions in SAIF’s Information Services Division.
SAIF management felt the Claims Division had grown large enough to need two vice presidents to oversee its operations. In the last issue of “Around AASCIF,” we reported on the appointment of Kathy Gehring to one of those positions. Pam Woods has been named as the second vice president for SAIF’s Claims Division. Woods has been a claims director since joining SAIF in 1992. Most recently, she was instrumental in planning, organizing, and overseeing the formation of the Service Center claims teams.
SAIF declares dividend for policyholders
SAIF Corporation’s board of directors has declared a $150 million dividend for approximately 47,000 current and former customers. Customers with policies that ended in 2009 and/or 2010 are eligible for the dividend.
“SAIF is able to pay this dividend because of improvements in workplace safety and loss experience and recent excellent investment returns,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Brenda Rocklin.
“The board of directors has evaluated SAIF’s financial condition and determined that we can return a $150 million dividend to SAIF policyholders, while safeguarding the funds we need to pay benefits to injured workers,” said Cathy Travis, chair of SAIF’s board. “Making workers’ compensation affordable for Oregon businesses is one of our core responsibilities. Our policyholders’ commitment to the safety of their employees helped make this dividend possible.”
Come to Portland in 2012
Oregon will host the 2012 AASCIF Conference on July 22-25 at the Nines Hotel in Portland. This video gives you a peak at what the city has to offer.
Susan Tuckerman sitting horseback represents a significant milestone in her recovery from a very serious WC injury. And serves as a fine example of what we at SWIF can accomplish when an injured worker needs our help.
Susan, a trainer of event horses, was severely injured in Florida when she fell from her horse. She sustained a spine injury and required treatment from some of the best specialists in the country. She has lost the use of her legs and her right arm.
For us, this is an out-of-state claim, but an unusual one. This employer, with whom the claimant lives, has training farms in both Florida and Pennsylvania. Her treatment has had to be coordinated at both locations. This included some home modifications and the purchase of a motorized vehicle that enabled her to work on the farm. One of her first major milestones was when she was able to roll the pasture while operating that vehicle. She was so happy that day, evidenced by a phone call she made to our Investigator, Valerie, while she was doing that task.
She has made slow progress along the way, and that progress has been monitored by Valerie from our office in Johnstown, as well as Sandy Bevilacqua in our HO.
A few months ago, she experimented with getting on a horse. She decided to purchase a specially trained horse, and the attached picture is her on that horse the day it arrived two weeks ago.
As it turns out, being on that horse is the beginning of a next phase of therapy. She'll next need a deck with a ramp that will enable her to mount and dismount the horse with less assistance...and we will continue to monitor the case and provide her with the assistance that she is entitled to under the WC Act.
WCB Chairperson David Eberle told the AGM that the 2010 results reflect, “… a top performing organization focused on stakeholder priorities – effective and efficient operations and safety in the workplace.”
The Saskatchewan WCB was the first in Canada to hold an annual general meeting.
Saskatchewan hosts second annual Health and Safety Leadership Charter Event
On June 9, 2011, WorkSafe Saskatchewan and Safe Saskatchewan hosted the second annual Health and Safety Leadership Charter signing event. There were 200 senior corporate and public sector leaders in attendance. Sixtey-eight companies joined the roster of Saskatchewan organizations publicly declaring their commitment to safety.
The event featured a luncheon and a welcome to new signatories.
Prior to the event, the Saskatchewan WCB sent the 2010 signatory companies letters detailing their 6-year injury statistics. The letter outlined how the companies compared within the signatory group, within their rate code and within the province in terms of time loss and total injury rates. The CEO of Safe Saskatchewan referred to these and presented an overview of how charter companies’ total injury and time loss injury rates compare to the provincial average. The 2010 statistics will become a baseline for measuring injury reduction in future years.
The highlight of the half-day event was a panel presentation by three signatories followed by a group discussion where everyone in attendance shared questions, ideas and successful safety initiatives from their own and client organizations.
The first Saskatchewan Health and Safety Leadership Charter event was held June 10, 2010. There are now 270 Saskatchewan companies on the signatory list.
Texas - Texas Mutual
Board approves $155M dividend distribution
In May, Texas Mutual’s board of directors approved the company’s plan to distribute $155 million in workers’ compensation dividends in 2011. The company anticipates that approximately 38,000 policyholders will qualify for a dividend based largely on their premium sizes, workplace safety records and history with the company.
“As a mutual insurance company, Texas Mutual is not publicly traded, and it does not answer to stockholders,” said Bob Barnes, chairman of Texas Mutual’s board of directors. “Our policyholders – the Texas entrepreneurs who put their trust in us every day - own the company. When Texas Mutual enjoys financial success, it has a solid history of sharing with those who have contributed to that success.”
By the end of this year, Texas Mutual will have paid more than $1 billion in policyholder dividends since 2000.
Premium fraud results in jail time for Houston man
A Travis County district court sentenced Gary C. Quintinsky of Houston to a two-year prison term for workers’ compensation fraud-related charges. Upon completion of his state prison term, Quintinsky will serve a 42-month federal prison sentence for tax evasion.
In 2007, a Travis County jury awarded Texas Mutual more than $5 million in actual damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages in a civil judgment against Quintinsky. The case was the largest premium fraud case in Texas Mutual’s history.
Annual report available online
In 2010, Texas Mutual wrote $609 million in premiums, provided coverage for 49,000 employers and distributed $116 million in dividends. More information about our 2010 financial results is available in our annual report, titled “The Stories in the Numbers.”
Legislature passes workers’ comp bills
The Texas Legislature adjourned on May 30, 2011. A list of workers’ comp-related bills is available on our website.