“Whistle Stop Tour,” LASIE 23rd Annual Meeting and Workers’ Compensation Conference: Preview

On November 5,6 and 7th, 2014, at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, the Louisiana Association of Self-Insured Employers (LASIE) will host their annual educational conference. The theme this year is “Whistle Stop Tour” with the goal of getting workers’ compensation in Louisiana “back on track.”

The annual conference is LASIE’s most important event of the year, and it aims to be both an educational and a joyous occasion for all attendees. Program speakers over the course of the three days will address a wide range of issues related to workers’ compensation in Louisiana, plus national developments that have bearing on our concerns here at home. Further, LASIE assures its conference-goers that solutions – not just problems – will be the main priority. Gary Patureau, Executive Director of LASIE since 1998, explains in the conference invitation: “If you operate a business with Louisiana employees you should attend this educational conference. The presentations are designed to provide practical solutions adaptable to the workplace. You are encouraged to bring your own thoughts and views along for discussion.”

Speakers including David Vitter and CLECO CEO Bruce Williamson are slated to present on nearly every aspect of the workers’ compensation industry in Louisiana, including policy making, comparisons of medical costs in surrounding states, the hiring process, claims management, vocational rehabilitation and pharmaceuticals and pain management.

Louisiana Comp Blog spoke with LASIE President Denise Wrenn and Gary Patureau about LASIE, the production of the “Whistle Stop Tour” and what participants can expect to gain from this year’s event at the ever-glamorous Beau Rivage.

Comp Blog: How long have you worked with LASIE?

Wrenn: I became a member of LASIE in 1993. My 21-year long association with LASIE has now developed into the distinguished achievement of becoming the 2014 Association President.

Comp Blog: What has changed in both the industry and at LASIE during your tenure?

Wrenn: Over the last 20 years, there has been a shift in terms of our claim dollars. I can remember when the indemnity payments for a claim were higher and the medical costs for a claim were much lower than indemnity. Now, we are seeing increasingly higher medical claim cost. This shift can be contributed to a variety of factors – it simply costs more today to return a worker to his previous state of health. LASIE since its inception has not changed in its goal, which is to serve as a spokesperson at the state level on issues affecting self-insurers and workers’ compensation, informing and educating Louisiana stakeholders on key issues.

Patureau: Since I started in 1998 compared to now, we see employers doing a much better job in their risk management. Frequency and severity have declined and that’s really the only thing driving costs down now. I believe this is the direct effect of companies creating better risk management programs. Plus, we’re seeing employers focusing on appropriate care [often utilizing evidence-based medicine.]

Comp Blog: How would you describe LASIE’s mission and how do you feel about the organization’s goals personally?

Wrenn: LASIE is devoted to issues impacting workers’ compensation from an employer’s perspective. LASIE serves to unify, promote, and protect self-insurance as a right and to serve as a resource for leadership in the industry. Personally, I believe that LASIE is the lone Louisiana association whose sole focus is to help reduce workers’ compensation costs by creating a more efficient and cost effective system. LASIE strives to not only advocate for sound compensation legislation and defeat the poor legislation, but also to give members the training opportunities to do the best possible job in claims management.

Patureau: LASIE’s mission has really evolved. We’re much more proactive at the level of policy.

Comp Blog: The annual conference is LASIE’s most important event of the year, what would you say are the top three things that participants gain from attending the conference?

Wrenn: First, the conference offers an opportunity to hear quality, prominent speakers from everywhere in the world of self-insurance – in state and out of state. Second, the conference provides participants with the tools to integrate best practices and new ideas into their workers’ compensation program. Finally, the exceptional networking potential with attendees and exhibitors speaks for itself.

Patureau: The top three things that I think people can gain are: awareness, education, and networking opportunities. That’s how we bring about change.

Comp Blog: Conferences like LASIE’s offer a key opportunity for workers’ comp professionals to convene and bond over their work. How does this interaction benefit the industry as a whole?

Wrenn: The interactions at the yearly LASIE conference allow those in our industry a special time to focus on skills and knowledge.

Comp Blog: What are the key issues that the conference speakers will address and how did you go about choosing which major issues to highlight?

Wrenn: We chose speakers based on key upcoming political events that have the capacity to affect LASIE’s efforts. The upcoming gubernatorial elections, changes in leadership in the legislature and the unprecedented economic boom are the major three. It is critical that we as self-insured employers and industry professionals lead the charge to modernize our workers’ compensation system.  During the annual conference, we have an opportunity to set the tone for creating this modernized system by discussing several fundamental issues that make us so expensive and different from other states. These include: Louisiana’s expected economic growth in the next three years, medical cost drivers in workers’ comp, the hiring process, and safety. We will also have presenters addressing claims management, case management, vocational rehabilitation, resolution of claims, and legal concerns.

Patureau: We’ve been on a mission to educate gubernatorial candidates on the issues facing the system, not just employers. We’re trying to get high level executives involved in education and policy-making. When David Vitter speaks, that’s going to be the day after national election day, so we’re going to get some real perspective. The program is meant to be comprehensive. We wanted to provide not just a presentation of problems but also solutions, which is why we’re following the whole “track” from hiring to settlement of a claim.

Comp Blog: Denise, how does your work with the CLECO Corporation self-insurance program translate to your duties as President of LASIE?

Wrenn: My day to day experience administering and managing CLECO’s workers’ compensation program gives me the experience needed to be an effective President for LASIE.  In my position I have consistently been able to navigate the workers’ compensation system, and as such, I can act as a strong advocate for LASIE’s goals by providing insight into current systemic problems.

Rooms are available at a $99 reduced group rate for LASIE conference attendees until this Friday, October 10th, simply reference LASIE in your reservation request via phone or online. There will also be an extensive exhibition hall and a $1,000 prize drawing along with additional door prizes and social activities and receptions.

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