As the final contribution to the 100 Reflections, I have had the benefit of reading the previous 99, and appreciating the history, insights, and wisdom that have been exhibited by these writers. Many of the writers have been from decades ago, as our workers’ compensation systems were just being born. Other writers are our modern-day contemporaries who are currently engaged in shaping public policy so this system of accident insurance strikes the appropriate balance in its impact upon all stakeholders. Many of these writers are here in this room as participants in this meeting.
If you have also read these previous reflections, you have noted that many of the challenges of the early years have been addressed and resolved. These were issues such as the idea of exclusive remedy, no fault coverage, and prompt medical attention at no cost to the injured worker. These were somewhat novel concepts that were developed into our respective state laws and policies, and, today are held as foundational to each system. However, in reading on you will have also noted that today we still struggle with many of the same issues as dealt with by the pioneers, and this could cause us to ponder if these will ever be resolved, or will we forever be stuck in debate. It appears that the answer is “yes.” Many of the issues will forever be there, and policymakers will continue to be in debate as to the best laws and regulations to administer the state-based systems. We will continue to exchange information and ideas while engaging all stakeholders in the decision-making process, working toward agreement through compromise, rather than stagnation through polarized positions that result in no progress at all.
So, to fellow administrators, I challenge us to engage all participants in the process to make certain we are striving constantly to improve. We cannot go wrong by focusing on the human element, all striving to reduce the frequency and severity of work-related injuries while assuring that injured workers receive prompt-excellent medical care, timely-fair payment of compensation benefits, and, if at all possible, returned to meaningful work at which they can enjoy living and working. These improvements cannot be made in the offices of the bureaucracies, but by engaging the people impacted: the workers, employers, doctors, lawyers, insurance providers, and, any other group who has a stake in the system.
So, we must continue the dialogue… the healthy debate and deliberation upon which our public policy is forged; and, in doing so, we are assured that all voices are heard, all positions are considered, and we will continue to make progress, moving forward through information sharing, through education, and through building relationships.
- D. Alan McClain, IAIABC President and CEO, Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission