ColoradoCare: A River Runs Through It

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Lisas Nov 2016 ColoradoCare Article
With one of the most challenging election processes I have seen in my lifetime, we finally have our answer of who will guide us the next four years. Regardless of which side of the polls you were on, this election should be an awakening that people are energized by something different. Donald Trump (and Bernie Sanders in the primary) created very vocal and passionate followers who wanted change.

Given the undercurrent of this national election crying for change, along with rising costs of Obamacare, I was not confident that ColoradoCare would get soundly defeated. Why wouldn’t voters want a new system with new approaches to old problems? Yet ColoradoCare is not of interest to the majority of Coloradoans.

The dichotomy of our election, in which our country elected the candidate with no public experience while voters kept most of the gridlock in Congress, makes for much intrigue about what changes are really desired. Are people looking for new ideas and direction but not quite ready for sweeping change?

I believe workers’ compensation is at this same crossroads. The Alliance of Women in Workers’ Compensation, of which I am a board member, began the year with a vision to create dialogue on a claimant advocacy model. We saw a need that was missing in our industry – a lost voice. Our white paper Creating an Advocacy-Based Claims Model addresses the unfortunate workers’ compensation industry paradigm – an entrenched culture that focuses too much on conflict and not enough on caring.

In workers’ comp, we get so wrapped up in our day-to-day compliance requirements and how to check every box that we lose sight of the forest for the trees. But the trees are the reason we exist – to protect and nurture what matters most. We can define a forest by changing the boundaries or changing the height in which we view it, but ultimately there is no forest without the trees.

Our industry is an old, stable industry with many staunch followers, but conversations about making change are starting to happen. The federal government is getting involved to try to assert standards; Colorado, via ColoradoCare, was trying to essentially absorb the medical portion of workers’ compensation. IAIABC started its National Conversations, and a non-subscriber revolution is taking shape in many states. But so far, these events are just talk – talk that may lead to determining new boundaries for workers’ comp.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. It is best felt over time, as illustrated in a popular 1990’s movie, A River Runs Through It. In the movie, timeless drops of water trickle over the rocks from our basement of time; this is what changes the course of the river. Floods can drive change faster, but in our daily lives, we generally need to follow the adage “the gains from change must outweigh the pains.” I believe we all need to be thinking about this undercurrent. What do we really need to gain in our quest for a better workers’ compensation system?

  1. Every state may tout a different problem to solve, but overall our system is pretty sound.
  2. Our system exists to support injured workers in their healing and get them back to productive work.
  3. Unless workers’ compensation becomes a government subsidized program, insurance costs must be balanced with the benefit costs

What are your rocks, and what raindrops are needed to change the course? What words do you have that create an effective conversation that creates timeless change?

I will not be haunted by the waters.

Reference from A River Runs Through It – inspiration from Woodsworth:

“Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.”

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.