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LIBERTY MUTUAL RISK MANAGEMENT FORUM ADDRESSES CRITICAL WORKERS COMPENSATION ISSUES

 LIBERTY MUTUAL RISK MANAGEMENT FORUM ADDRESSES
 CRITICAL WORKERS COMPENSATION ISSUES
 CHICAGO, Sept. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- "The cost of low-back injuries in the workplace rose to approximately $16 billion in 1990, and is projected to be $40 billion by the year 2000," Ted Braun, Liberty Mutual's director-ergonomics services, told an audience of more than 240 risk managers attending Liberty Mutual's Risk Management Forum in Chicago today.
 The forum is being held Sept. 21-23 to provide risk managers of large companies with information on the rapidly changing and complex issues that they face, and the practical solutions that can help them better manage their insurance programs. Liberty Mutual has been the country's leading writer of workers compensation for nearly half a century.
 "The forces propelling the upward spiral are primarily unrestrained medical costs, excessive legal disputes and fraud," Braun said. "As we all know, there is uncertainty associated with back injuries, and it is this uncertainty that invites protracted litigation, fraud and unrestrained medical costs."
 A study of all back claims registered with Liberty Mutual over a one-year period revealed that the average cost per case was nearly $7,000, while the median cost was $391. "This indicates that the costs are not evenly distributed," said Braun, referring to the study. "We also found that low-back pain cases comprise 17 percent of our claims, but a whopping 35 percent of our losses."
 Braun added that to reduce costs associated with back injuries, risk managers must have an effective managed care system, with special emphasis on prevention. "Prevention requires a multi-disciplinary approach incorporating ergonomics, training and placement," Braun said. Ergonomics is the key component and entails designing the job to be compatible with human capabilities and limitations. "A well-designed job is less likely to cause an episode of low-back pain, and it usually allows a person to return to work sooner."
 Liberty Mutual conducts ergonomics research, as well as research on occupational safety, acoustics, prosthetics and rehabilitation, at its Research Center in Hopkinton, Mass. The ergonomics research is used to develop task redesign options that reduce exposure to work injuries.
 On the topic of fraud, John O'Leary, director of claims security and recovery at Liberty Mutual, urged risk managers to get involved because "this is an economic issue that impacts jobs and paychecks."
 "Everyone -- insurers, government, law enforcement, consumer advocates, businesses and their employees -- must take part in the fight against workers compensation fraud if the problem is to be solved," O'Leary said.
 O'Leary recommended basic common sense and good claims practices, augmented by comprehensive training and corporate and legal support, as the best approach to fraud containment. He also said insurers must work closely with their customers to identify and respond appropriately to workers compensation claims requiring special investigation.
 O'Leary applauded the growing effort among insurers, law enforcement officials and state legislators to fight fraud. "Mounting public concern and anger are being translated into action which includes specific fraud-fighting elements," he said. "California, Florida and Massachusetts have taken very positive steps in the last several months to contain workers compensation fraud."
 Nevertheless, more must be done, according to O'Leary. Calling for the development of solid anti-fraud provisions in every state, as well as public education and outreach to alter the widespread attitude that nothing really bad happens if a false worker compensation claim is filed, O'Leary offered that fraud is a problem that can eventually be solved.
 O'Leary noted the effectiveness of Liberty Mutual's Special Investigative Units (SIUs), including a special workers compensation SIU in Southern California to support the company's L.A. basin offices in dealing with the workers compensation fraud there.
 The Liberty Mutual Risk Management Forum will also cover the Americans With Disabilities Act's effect on "return to work" programs and job redesign, funding alternatives for workers compensation programs, stress and cumulative trauma claims, self-insurance programs and workers compensation reform efforts.
 -0- 9/22/92
 /CONTACT: John Cusolito, 312-380-4856, or Maggie Sheehan, 617-574-5874, for Liberty Mutual/ CO: Liberty Mutual ST: Massachusetts, Illinois IN: FIN SU:


CN -- NE004 -- 2389 09/22/92 17:16 EDT
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Date:Sep 22, 1992
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