Friday, May 1, 2009

Thoughts on the IAIABC ACC in Baltimore

This post is a little behind schedule. I was in Baltimore last week at the IAIABC All Committee Conference and wanted to say something profound about one of the topics covered at that event. We discussed so many things: The impact of recession and recovery on workers’ compensation systems, self-insurance and bankruptcy implications for workers’ compensation regulators, plans for the 2009 convention, and the co-hosting of the 2010 International Forum on Disability Management in LA.

Each of these items could have easily filled a blog post (and might at some point in the future). As I started to write I realized there was a fundamental question being answered by mere fact that such a conference was happening: What is value of attending such multi-jurisdictional events?

In the grips of a recession, the obvious costs were the on the minds of many and prevented some from attending. To be sure, airfare and hotels and conference registrations cost money. Then there are the opportunity costs of having senior policy makers and administrators devoting their time and energies to activities outside their jurisdiction. Over and above these costs are the usual hassles of travel and inconvenience of being separated from family for a week. Despite these costs, powers that be weighed the costs and decided the benefits were of greater importance. Those in attendance at this conference were there because of intentional choices based on the premise: the benefits far outweigh the costs.

So what are the benefits? Conferences like this one provide valuable insight and information of immense value: early warnings, new ideas, feedback on what works and what doesn’t, intelligence on emerging trends and context for understanding developments elsewhere in workers’ compensation and prevention. And beyond the official agenda, the informal discussion and contacts create new networks to support information sharing and understanding.
These benefits have value. Those that attended learned first-hand about the challenges, successes and failures of those dealing with real life workers’ comp issues—lessons that may justify actions worth millions of dollars to a system or prevent the human costs associated with work-related injury, illness and disease. The organizations that chose to send delegates, participate in committee work and contribute to the dialogue obviously get that. And those who get it but are prevented from attending for other reasons contribute in other ways (participation via conference call and discussion forum, for example) and receive at least some of the benefits that way.

Increasingly, policy makers are being asked how their jurisdiction stacks up against others or what the implications of a new law or regulation introduced in another area might be in their own jurisdiction. The price of the ‘free’ information needed to answer those questions is participation in and support of organizations like IAIABC, AASCIF and AWCBC and the committees that are the driving force behind their work—a cost that is well worth the investment.

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