Episode 1: Empowering Injured Workers in Texas with Michael Bradford | Forecasting Success Podcast

ARAWC > Podcast > Episode 1: Empowering Injured Workers in Texas with Michael Bradford | Forecasting Success Podcast

Forecasting Success Podcast

Episode 1: Empowering Injured Workers in Texas with Michael Bradford

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Welcome to the premier episode of ARAWC Forecasting Success! Dive into the fascinating world of risk management, and workers’ compensation with insights from industry expert Michael Bradford, the Director of Risk Management for BrightSpring Health Services

Host Ryan Brannan chats with Michael about his journey and the innovative strides made in employee injury management and non-subscription injury benefit programs in Texas. 

Tune in for a wealth of knowledge on ensuring better outcomes for workers and companies alike.

  • Introducing Michael Bradford: Over 25 years with BrightSpring Health Services, specializing in occupational injuries.
  • Unexpected Career Beginnings: Michael delves into his unintentional entry into risk management and how hands-on experiences shaped his expertise.
  • Shaping Company Processes: Michael highlights the development of procedures that honed the company’s approach to safety, injury prevention, and quality services.
  • Non-Subscriber Status in Texas: Celebrating 20 years as a non-subscriber, Michael discusses the initial fears and eventual success of moving away from statutory workers’ comp.
  • Enhancing Employee Benefits: An anecdote about improving plan benefits to ensure employees don’t face financial hardship after on-the-job injuries.
  • Lone Star Safety Award: Recognition for the non-subscriber company’s exceptional safety measures.
  • Comprehensive Employee Care: The importance of detailed communication and unwavering support to help employees through their recovery.
  • In-House Claim Administration: BrightSpring Health Services’ personalized approach provides consistency and understanding to employees.
  • Outcomes in Different States: Notable differences in the quality of outcomes between Texas and other states due to the ability to tailor benefits.
  • Corporate Reach: An overview of BrightSpring Health Services, highlighting their extensive nationwide operations and employee base.
  • The Future of Risk Management: Michael weighs in on where he sees the industry heading.
  • Promoting Employer Choice: ARAWC’s role in protecting the non-subscriber option and introducing QCARE as a designation for companies providing exceptional employee benefits.

Ryan Brannan (00:00:07) Hello. Thank you for joining us. This is the first ever episode of ARAWC’s Forecasting Success. I’m your host Ryan Brannan, and I’m very excited to bring this new podcast to you where we’re going to be looking at risk management, employee injury, how those are effective, and the our world of the workers comp ecosphere. And I’m very excited to have my first guest with us who’s Michael Bradford, the director of BrightSpring Health Services, who is an expert in the field and has been working there for a long, long time. Hello, Michael.

Michael Bradford (00:00:40) Hi, Ryan. Thanks for having me today.

Ryan Brannan (00:00:41) Thanks for being on. Appreciate you taking the time and joining us.

Michael Bradford (00:00:44) Absolutely. I’m honored to be here.

Ryan Brannan (00:00:45) Looking forward to hearing all that you have to say and sharing your expertise with all of our audience out there.

Michael Bradford (00:00:51) I look forward to it as well.

Ryan Brannan (00:00:52) So to help us get this kicked off, Michael, why don’t you tell everybody a little bit about yourself?

Michael Bradford (00:00:56) Sure. My name is Michael Bradford. I am director of risk management for BrightSpring Health Services. I’ve been with the company for over 25 years, and I specialize in occupational injuries for our workforce.

Ryan Brannan (00:01:10) Fantastic. That’s a long time to be at one company these days.

Michael Bradford (00:01:13) It is a long time. I will say we have gone through some acquisitions, but beyond that, it’s been a tremendous experience and an incredible company to work for.

Ryan Brannan (00:01:24) Fantastic. So in that case, let’s go back and start at the beginning there. How did you get involved with that company 25 years ago?

Michael Bradford (00:01:32) Well, that’s actually kind of funny because apparently I never even applied for a risk management role. According to our human resources department, I ended up applying for a different position. I got passed over, and another manager happened to notice my resume in the stack, happened to notice in particular, specific software experience that I had that jumped out at her, and so she ended up hiring me. And one of the first tasks that I was ever charged with was to handle the workers compensation claims.

Ryan Brannan (00:02:05) All right, so given that, how did you go about knowing what to do on handling workers compensation claims, given your software experience?

Michael Bradford (00:02:18) Well, a lot of it was flying by the seat of my pants right. And trying to surround myself with folks who were experts in the field and trying to learn as much as I could and then hands on experience. Right. That was probably my key to learning what to do is basically you start seeing the process and you start developing that process and then you tailor that process for your company.

Ryan Brannan (00:02:51) And so was that a new process that you created or was it a process that was in place that you just picked up on and learned?

Michael Bradford (00:02:57) Well, we started off with statutory workers comp, so you were bound by those rules and you could not deviate. But when it came to our company’s experience, we were able to learn quite a lot from our employee injuries. What could we do to improve safety? What could we do to prevent future injuries? What could we do to help and support those individuals that we provide services to, which at the end of the day, was the finish line right. Of trying to provide quality services.

Ryan Brannan (00:03:30) So that’s actually a pretty good segue into you say you started out with statutory workers comp and looking at better outcomes across the board and how you can help the workers and looking for better results and trying to figure out how to do it better along the line there. I’m assuming your company made a jump.

Michael Bradford (00:03:48) Yes.

Ryan Brannan (00:03:49) And so how long ago was that and what was the impetus for that? Can you kind of walk us through a little bit of that?

Michael Bradford (00:03:55) Sure. I’m thrilled to say that as of June of this year, we’ve celebrated 20 years of being a non subscriber here in Texas.

Ryan Brannan (00:04:06) Wow.

Michael Bradford (00:04:06) And I remember that challenge. Our vice president of risk at the time, he charged us with developing a non subscriber plan. Well, my experience was in workers comp. Never heard of non subscription. And so I started talking with folks. I started talking with my workers comp, defense attorneys, anybody I could. What do you know about non subscription? This is so unusual. I’ve never heard of this. And honestly, it terrified me. It absolutely terrified me. Well, wait, so we’re not going to follow the workers’comp rules? Well, no, you don’t have to as long as you follow the rules governed by the TDI and by ERISA. Still scared the dickens out of me. But once we started and we implemented the plan and we got to see how it worked, it was amazing. The fact that you could provide quality benefits to your employees, making sure that they’re taken care of. You could tailor your benefits towards your company to ensure that your employees don’t go without and suffer those financial hardships that so many do under the statutory systems.

Ryan Brannan (00:05:15) Yeah, it’s funny you say that it scared you when your company was making that transition. I can assure you, as a former workers comp regulator in Texas, when I first got there and learned that a good quarter of the employer employee market in Texas was potentially outside of our regulatory jurisdiction, that scared me too. So I looked into it a lot, just trying to understand why a company would want to go that route and if they were honestly protecting their employees. And during my tenure there, we came up with what we called the Lone Star Safety Award, where essentially, if your company had three years with no accidents and other qualifying metrics, you could be eligible to receive the Lone Star Safety Award. We would come out there as the agency to deliver the award. We would invite the state rep and state senator from the area local press, get the company in their paper. It was kind of a big deal. Well, towards the end of my tenure as commissioner, one of the companies that we gave the award to was a non subscriber. And it was amazing because they gave us a tour, and this is a custom shelving custom woodworking shop. So a lot of saws a lot of very dangerous equipment, and they walked us through all the safety processes that they had in place. And when we were given the award, when it was time for the photo op, the CEO of the company looked over at me and says, you do know that we’re non subscribers, right? And I said, of course. He kind of gave me this look like, why are you here giving us an award? And I said, to be honest with you, it doesn’t matter to me if I regulate you or not, as long as you’re protecting your employees.

Michael Bradford (00:07:06) That’s right.

Ryan Brannan (00:07:07) And I think that’s something that Texas got right. And it’s amazing to me that your company figured out the right way to do it 20 years ago. So going back to you and your interest in making sure that your employees get the best outcomes and recoverable if your injuries and everything that comes with that, how did you go about tailoring your plan for your employees?

Michael Bradford (00:07:29) Well, first we worked with our national broker and our non subscriber broker to develop our non subscriber plan. And the plan was initially designed based on other brokers clientele in the healthcare sector. So that’s where we started. But then as we developed our experience in the program, we found, well, there are certain things that don’t work. Our non subscriber plan was developed to provide comparable, if not better, benefits than the workers compensation system. So we wanted to go above and beyond. Well, not too long after we kicked off our program, we had an executive director involved in a pretty bad auto accident. Shattered her ankle, and she was single, had a house, had two cars. She calls me up and goes, there’s a financial cap on the lost wage. You know, Michael, just to let you know, this is going to be a little bit tough for me until I recover. And all of a sudden I realized, wait a minute. Well, that’s not fair. Now, if you look in the workers comp system, employees get about 70 75% of their gross wages and lost wage benefits. So what could we do that’s better? And we decided to update our plan. We were able to improve our benefits, in which now we have no reduction in lost wage benefits compared to an employee’s salary. So if they earned $100 a week prior to their injury, they’re going to receive $100 a week in lost wage benefits. So that way our employees don’t suffer because they were hurt on our job.

Ryan Brannan (00:09:04) Yeah, it’s interesting you say that. That’s a fight at the Texas Capitol almost every session. It seems like there’s legislation filed. And speaking of the Capitol, obviously we’re right across the street from it in Austin where my home base is and yours as well. But it just kind of reminded me that when you said that, that we are at the Capitol and during the legislative sessions, there’s always legislation filed to try to raise the amount of money that you can get in workers compensation if you’re an injured employee to 100%. And that never seems to go anywhere. And I don’t really know the impetus for that. But it’s interesting to me to hear you say that you can do that as a non subscriber and that you do do that.

Michael Bradford (00:09:49) You most definitely can, in fact, in that situation, so we’ll call her susie was injured in the auto accident, and she brought this to my attention, and she wasn’t necessarily complaining or anything of that nature, but she was trying to help me in know what is going on. So we were able to retro change our injury plan because we were improving benefits. We weren’t taking away anything from our workforce, we were adding to it. So we were able to backdate the revision of our plan. So that way her date of injury was covered, and that way she didn’t lose financially just because she was hurt on the job. And that is one of the probably most successful components of being a non subscriber, is that at any time you can improve those benefits. You can. And it doesn’t have to be affected today. It doesn’t have to be effective back. You can backdate it. So that way your employees are covered and they don’t go.

Ryan Brannan (00:10:45) And I’m assuming that helped what did we call her?

Michael Bradford (00:10:48) Susie.

Ryan Brannan (00:10:48) Susie. I’m assuming that that helped Susie get back to work and not leave the company.

Michael Bradford (00:10:56) Oh, absolutely. She didn’t suffer the financial hardships. We were able to provide her with quality medical care under the guise of our medical director. So that way we ensured that her treatment was taken care of in a quality way and she did not have to suffer financially. So that way, once she recovered, she could pick up, return to work, and then move on with life. And that’s what it’s all about, is taking care of our injured employees.

Ryan Brannan (00:11:23) There you go. So that’s a great example, and in fact, I was going to ask you for a good example, but you already gave me one. But just for fun, can you give us one of your most difficult examples or your most difficult claim that’s ever.

Michael Bradford (00:11:36) Come across your desk besides an employee death? I’ll say one of the most difficult claims I had was a lady in San Antonio had her thumb ripped off when she placed her hand in a moving industrial washer and dryer. She was trying to hurry, finish up her shift. There were some comforters that were running in the dryer. She didn’t wait for the cycle to finish, she sticks her hand in, wraps around her thumb, and rips it off. So I was able to work with her from the very beginning. Once the claim was reported until the very end, we ended up coming to an amicable settlement agreement in which she was fully taken care of. It was incredibly hard for her. I think it’d be incredibly hard for anybody to lose any appendage, whether it was an entire arm or a finger or what have you. So working with her throughout the entire process of making sure, okay, your emergency care is taken care of, let’s get you set up with a primary treating physician, let’s get you to the right specialist, let’s get you to wound care a whole nine yards. And so I was talking with her practically every single day. Every single day. And then once it came to the point that she was going to reach maximum rehabilitative capacity, she was going to plateau in her care. She started talking to me about, I don’t want to go back to work. I said, why don’t you want to go back to work? And she goes, I am too embarrassed. I am too embarrassed. I don’t have a thumb, Michael. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want people judging me. So, well, let’s talk about that. What can we do to help you through this process? And I brought up the idea of settling with her. Well, how does that work? I said, Well, I’ll offer you some of money, and if you agree, then we will be able to settle out your claim, and you’ll be taken care of for the future. Okay. Even through that process, she said, well, what if I don’t like the initial number you give me? Said, then negotiate with me. This is not I’m going to give you, let’s say, $1,000, and you’re done. You take it or leave it. That’s not what this is about. So I was even able to help her in understand, okay, I don’t want $1,000. I want $2,000. Okay, well, maybe I can offer you $1,500. And so this was not we’re on sitting on opposite sides of the table, and we’re enemies. This is me helping her through the entire thing. And so we were able to come to a full settlement agreement. But for me personally, my biggest challenge was working with this individual who not only had a traumatic injury that she was mortified over, but then there are the after effects, too. You don’t always see that when an injured worker is talking with a worker’s comp adjuster. Sometimes you do. And sometimes you have these great adjusters and examiners out there that are able to go the extra mile with injured workers. Some aren’t. Some it’s a churn and burn. I’ve ticked a box on my checklist. I’m done. I called you once, I introduced myself to you, we’re done. And then that develops a lot of animosity, doesn’t it?

Ryan Brannan (00:14:58) Absolutely. In fact, there were two follow ups that I wanted to talk to you about from that, but the first one was you mentioning settlements. But since we’re talking about what makes a good claims adjuster and not right, your two examples that you just gave show that you very much care about the employees in your company. And so I would ask you, what do you think makes a good claims adjuster risk manager? And what do you think somebody that’s coming up in the industry could learn from the experiences that you’ve had?

Michael Bradford (00:15:32) First lesson, communicate. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Because you’re the former Commissioner of Workers Compensation, you have an immense amount of knowledge. And if you were my adjuster and I’m an injured worker, I don’t have your knowledge base. I don’t understand the occupational injury system, whether it’s workers comp, it’s non subscription, what have you. So the first lesson that I would teach any adjuster is you communicate with the injured worker, explain to them what their benefits are, explain to them what their rights are, and then you maintain that communication. It’s so easy to see. So I support our company’s operations from the Southwest out to the Pacific. So that includes California, that includes Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, and some of those jurisdictions are really, really challenging. Adjusters have high volume caseload, right. They’re usually working 100 plus files, and they made their contact with Johnny. All right, I checked that box off my list. I did what I had to do, and then they just start handling paperwork. And so I see so often where adjusters check that box on their to do list, but then they don’t maintain that communication. Okay, so, all right, I’ve started treatment, you helped me find a provider. What about my lost wage benefits? Well, according to the statute, it’s blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Okay, wait, I am not a legal person. I am not a legislator. I don’t understand what that means. And explain the process from beginning to end. Hopefully you don’t get to the point of permanent restrictions where you can’t come back to work. Hopefully you’re going to be able to fully recover from your injury. But helping the injured worker through the process, that is such a key. And the first thing to do is communicate with them and maintain that communication even if you don’t get along. And those can be challenging situations, right, where an employee may be frustrated or disgruntled at their employer or their supervisor or their environment. They’ve got family issues going on. And for me, the claims handler or the adjuster, it’s their job to make sure that the employee understands the process, and you help them navigate through that process until the end.

Ryan Brannan (00:17:56) That’s great advice. And I think something that we see a lot in the workers comp system, at least when I was at the agency, was a significant lack of education and understanding amongst the employees, amongst the workforce, in general. So just having that extra mile of communication, if a lot of adjusters had that, I think the system would work a lot better. It works great, I’m not going to lie. The Texas system is a gold standard, and part of that is because we have non subscription and we have that competition in the marketplace. And so when you have guys like Michael that have been doing this for a long time, that are very good at it and have figured out ways to motivate their employees to come back to work and to have these outcomes, it forces the system to become better and then everybody gets better. And that’s the way it should work in my mind. And so I appreciate that feedback you alluded to, and I’m still going to get back to the settlement issue, but I now want to kind of arch it a different way. So you just alluded to the fact that you have claims in multiple states, so can you kind of walk through your company just a little bit as far as what they do and what states they’re in?

Michael Bradford (00:19:14) Yeah, of course. So BrightSpring Health Services. We are the leading care provider for complex populations in need of specialized care. So we have community residential based settings for individuals with developmental disabilities. We provide home care services to senior citizens and those with special needs. We have the largest closed door pharmacy in the nation in which we’re able to drop ship medications to individuals at their homes who need to take them on a continual basis. We operate 24/7. We have over 50,000 employees, and we serve over a third of a million people on a daily on a daily basis. So we have employees who are working around the clock, on the weekends, overnight, during the holidays to ensure that the individuals that we serve can live their best lives with that. I believe that we’re currently in all 50 states, and I support the Southwest out to the Pacific. I have a counterpart that handles the east and southern part of the country and another counterpart who handles the Northeast and Midwest. So we get to see a lot of variances with the state regs and rules and Texas being unique and that we have the non subscriber option. When we first opted out, we actually elected to administer all of our claims in house, and that was another benefit that we provide to our workers, is that if you’re heard on the job, you’re not going to speak with an outside adjuster. Okay, tell me what you do or what are your lifting requirements? What is your daily process? No, we know exactly what you do because we’re a fellow employee and so we’re able to administer those benefits. So you don’t have to tell your story from A to Z. And additionally, because we administer claims in house, that means if I’m handling your claim, I’m going to be there for you from the time that you report your incident until the final resolution, you’re not going to get passed off from adjuster to adjuster. You’re going to talk to me the entire time. If you’re going to work with Tina, Sylvia, Orletti in my department, you’re going to work with that one individual and they’re going to help you through the entire process.

Ryan Brannan (00:21:24) That can’t be understated. I was sitting here thinking about we had just Marriott points taken out randomly, and by the time we called and set on hold, we had to talk to four different people, go through the whole story.

Michael Bradford (00:21:36) Exactly.

Ryan Brannan (00:21:37) And I was extremely frustrated with the whole process. That’s just vacation or hotel points.

Michael Bradford (00:21:42) Imagine if you’re hurt at work and you’re in pain. I don’t want to tell my story again. I just told somebody else. That’s something, again, about the lines of maintaining the lines of communication open is to again, help the employee through the claims process. We can’t provide you medical care directly. Right. I’m not a physician, but I can get you to a quality physician to make sure that you are taken care of.

Ryan Brannan (00:22:10) That’s amazing. So in the other states, you can’t opt out. You can’t be a non subscriber, you can’t tailor your benefits. Do you see a difference in the outcomes in Texas versus some of those other states?

Michael Bradford (00:22:21) Huge. Yeah, huge. So our Vice President of Risk, way back in the day, charged us with developing this non subscriber plan. He left the company after a few years and he recently came back. So, Michael, tell me about this know, it’s been, it’s been ages since we’ve talked, so I was starting to fill him in. Tell me how many claims you’ve had. Over a million dollars. Zero. Wait, what? No, I need you to dig again. And I’m like, I’m telling you, there are no claims over a million dollars. And why is that? Well, thankfully, we haven’t had any catastrophic claims. I need some wood to knock on. Right. But two, we’re ensuring that our employees have a safe workplace. We’re taking care of our employees who are hurt at work, and we are helping again, our injured workers through the entire claims process, where if you are in another state, oklahoma, New Mexico, California, Washington, the rules are ever changing and ever evolving. Where not only the injured worker may struggle to understand what’s going on, but those who are administering the benefits. And that is incredibly difficult. I’ll tell you a true story, is Washington State. We were coming to a settlement agreement with an injured worker. We had all the documents lined up. We submitted them to the regulatory agency, and the regulatory agency said, your agreement is rejected. Oh. What’s wrong? Well, we updated the forms. We hadn’t told anybody about it. They’re in my binder here. So we just need to go back and redo the whole thing. Like, wow, that took so long to negotiate that agreement and we finally got everything, all the T’s crossed and all the I’s dot. Now we’ve got to start all over. So in some states there’s lifetime medical. So even if an employee may not be, as let’s say assertive in wanting that future medical care that’s going to stay open. And so they’ll get their PD benefits, right, but then you have Dwindling treatment. Oh, they resurface about a year later or something of that nature. In our non subscriber plan, because we have the ability to settle claims with injured workers, we can provide you with some of money to make sure that you’re taken care of in the future.

Ryan Brannan (00:24:48) And there we go. And you brought up another good point that ties into the settlement issue and that’s that you haven’t had a million dollar claim in Texas. Again, we’ll find some wood to knock on for you. But several years ago there was a push nationally to potentially look at expanding the Texas model. And I was the commissioner at the time and so I ended up on a lot of panels in a lot of places to discuss Texas. And I heard routinely that one of the big fears of allowing non subscription was opening up employers to lawsuits. And at the time they pointed to in west Texas, not West Texas, the town of west with great kolache oh yes, had a fertilizer facility blow up and it initially caught fire. They did not have a fire department in west. So it was a lot of volunteer firefighters that showed up from neighboring areas and several of them died in the explosion. And I remember we had a lot of meetings in the governor’s office. The mayor of west came down, what are we going to do about this? And they didn’t have workers comp, so that was a big question mark. But then it turns out they weren’t a non subscriber either. They were totally bare. And when that was brought up as an example from the other states, I said, well they didn’t have comp, that’s correct. But they also didn’t have any coverage at all. They went bear and in Texas you could go bare. And I remember at the time the commissioner in Florida actually said, well that would never happen in Florida. And I said, are you sure about that? Because you have a lot of employers in Florida that are bare. It happens everywhere. There’s bad actors and there’s companies that are cutting corners. It’s just the way it is.

Michael Bradford (00:26:53) Or can’t afford to pay their bills.

Ryan Brannan (00:26:54) Can’t afford, right. There’s various reasons, but not every company takes care of their employees. And ultimately we sorted it out and we got it. I think west actually has some new off ramps and a highway and a new school. So the governor really stepped in and really helped them out and they helped out with the families of those firefighters that were lost. But the point being again, everybody was worried about getting sued and the ultimate devastation that that could cause for a company to go under, something like that. And that fertilizer plant did end up filing for bankruptcy, for example. Now again, that example is different because they were non subscribers. But why is it that everybody seems to be worried in these other states about the possibility of getting sued, at least from the regulator standpoint, of having the employers getting sued? But in Texas, where that’s a possibility for non subscribers, that doesn’t seem to be an issue.

Michael Bradford (00:27:57) Well, first I’ll say I think it is an issue, okay. But it’s a manageable issue, right. So if you ensure that your employees have a safe place to work, if somebody comes up and says there is a slip and fall hazard over here, then our management teams, our supervisors go in and address it, right? But my other response to your question is you still get sued just in a different way, whether it’s workers comp or non sub, right. Employer injured workers can go hire an attorney and litigate the matter through the workers compensation system. So there’s still litigation there which is going to exponentially increase the cost of your claims and so your exposure goes up, so on and so forth. Now, being a non subscriber, we don’t necessarily have those insurance protections, so we’re going to pay first dollar. But again, if you as an employer ensure that your employees have a safe place to work, if an employee brings up an issue with you about safety, address it, document it, make sure that you maintain that documentation. So that way if something else happens in the future, you can go back to those records and show that, yeah, we did address it. This is a different matter. This isn’t recurrent. Then I think you’re going to be fine. You’re always going to be susceptible to lawsuits. We all are, especially in this very litigious day and age. People are so happy this morning getting ready for work. I have the TV on and what do you see? Attorney commercial after attorney commercial after attorney commercial after attorney commercial.

Ryan Brannan (00:29:26) And you just kind of hit on where I think this was going a little bit in that if you take care of your employees, you’re going to be fine. So what I had kind of done from the regulator standpoint or former regulator standpoint, I had looked at specific discussion points that were asked to me or concerns about non subscription from other states when I was commissioner and being on all those panels for those several years there. And essentially it was just concerns. It was questions, it was fear of the unknown is really what I was constantly being asked about. And so I think the easier way for me to approach that instead of just listing off fear of the unknowns, is ask you two questions. The first one is, do you think that you. Would rather have non subscription in other states or just in Texas.

Michael Bradford (00:30:21) I most definitely wish that we could have non subscriber plans in other states.

Ryan Brannan (00:30:26) Why?

Michael Bradford (00:30:27) First, it allows us to take care of our own workforce. Yeah, workers compensation coverage does that. But if you’re able to provide better benefits than the state system to your employees who are then going to recover and be healthy and happy, happy workers, productive workers, right? That’s a huge selling point. And I can also sympathize with those regulators and those legislators in other states who, who are scared of the unknown because I’ve been there, and if you don’t talk to the right people, you’re going to get even more scared, right? I attended a lecture prior to becoming a non subscriber, and it was facilitated by a workers comp defense attorney and a designated doctor here in Texas. And so afterwards, I went up to them and I asked them, I said, what do you know? I’m just terrified of this. And the attorney said, well, you get the right lawyers, you provide a safe workplace, blah, blah, blah, you’re going to be fine. Designated doctor just looks at me and goes, I wouldn’t do it. The liability exposure alone, that just terrifies me. Accidents happen. That’s why they’re called accidents, right? Accidents do happen. As long as you’re able to show that you’re going to take care of those employees and you actually follow through with that promise that you’re going to take care of your employees, again, I think that you’re going to be fine. So messages for folks outside of Texas who might be curious about non subscription, might be scared of non subscription. First, you need to talk to the right people. Don’t talk to the workers comp people because they’re probably not going to have a ton of experience necessarily in that realm, but talk to some fellow non subscribers. That’s something that I really appreciated when we were exploring this as an option was that our national broker took my boss at the time and me to various non subscribing employers. And so I wasn’t just talking with that designated doctor or the workers comp defense attorney. I was talking with actual employers who.

Ryan Brannan (00:32:31) Have done this for a fantastic thank you for teeing this up, Michael. You’re an amazing guest. You’re giving great examples, you’re giving great stories, kind of help and guide through this. Speaking of learning, every day we’ve talked about all the changes that you’ve seen in 25 years in the industry, not just in Texas, but in many other states, 24, I think you said. Where do you see this going? Where do you see the industry going? Where do you see risk management going? If you had a crystal ball, what would it say or what would it look like?

Michael Bradford (00:33:13) I think in reality, I will say that we all know in the occupational injury realms that it’s heavily bureaucratic, there’s heavy paperwork, and I don’t think that we’re going to get away from that anytime in the near future. You’re going to have lots of regulations. The regulations are there for a reason. I think we’re going to see more of that. But I also think, too, that you’re going to see organizations like ARAWC, who protects the non subscriber option, be out there in the forefront educating people on the program. And I think that you’re going to see some expansion again, hopefully not just in Texas, but maybe in other states as well. I think that there are opportunities once folks learn and understand what the opportunities truly are in being a non subscriber employer or if they even go a step further and get their Q care designation, I think we’re going to see more and more of this because what’s going on right now? Well, we’ve seen the Too movement. We’ve seen Black Lives Matter. We are now seeing a lot of employee unions. You’ve got the United Auto Workers strikes that were happening. We’ve got the Screen Actors Guild. So we see a lot of unionization out there, which is going to in turn result in what? More employee benefits. Right. How do you provide more employee benefits? Well, you can stick with the statutory system, but if you can provide more benefits and better benefits, I think you’re going to be in a better place as a company. And then also your workforce is going to be happier and healthier and taken care of.

Ryan Brannan (00:34:51) For those reasons, you mentioned QCARE and ARAWC. Obviously on the introduction of this show, I said, this is ARAWC Forecasting Success, the title sponsor of this podcast. For those that don’t know who’s ARAWC and what’s QCARE.

Michael Bradford (00:35:11) Sure. ARAWC is the association of Responsible Alternatives to Workers’Compensation. We are a Texas based association in which we protect the non subscriber option for employers and giving employers that choice. You might choose to carry statutory workers comp. You may choose to be a self insured. You may choose to carry nothing. But you can also choose to be a non subscriber and provide quality occupational injury benefits to your employees that are comparable, if not better, than the state Workers’Compensation system. So we at ARAWC are here to protect that option for employers and giving them that choice. Every few years, the Department of Insurance issues a study about quality of services for those who subscribe to the statutory system and those who don’t. Now, in that study, I think most folks who have read that study know that TDI tends to lump anybody who doesn’t carry statutory coverage into a grouping called a non subscriber. So that could be those employers you mentioned earlier. They go bear those who are self insured, those who are non subscribers. Well, wait, hold on. How do you compare a company who provides quality benefits with one who doesn’t provide any benefits at all? So we at ARAWC went a step further and developed the QCARE designation. QCARE stands for qualified compensation alternative for recovering employees. It is a designation in which an employer can receive if they meet ten high standards. In other words, you take care of your employers, take care of your employees, you follow the rules because you still have rules to follow both on the state and federal level. So those employers who have gone that extra mile can receive this Q Care designation at no cost to them, which helps differentiate them from other TDI classified non subscribers who don’t provide any coverage whatsoever.

Ryan Brannan (00:37:03) Right. And I have to say, I really enjoyed the creation of QCARE as an example of the innovation in the non subscription market. So when I was commissioner, we had a chairman in our House Oversight Committee on that side of the building. And the chairman at the time was getting beat up over non subscription versus workers comp versus Go Bear. And he said to me, just flat out, look, I know in the non workers compensation space there are good actors, but I also know there are bad actors. What’s troubling me is I have no way of distinguishing between the two. And it would be great if we could have something that showed us as those with legislative oversight. This is the chairman who has oversight of the workers compensation committee in the state or workers compensation system sorry, chairman of the committee who has oversight of the workers compensation system in the state. And he says we have to have something that shows who the good guys are in that space. And that’s why employers have ARAWC. That’s right.

Michael Bradford (00:38:20) They can join ARAWC if they choose not to join ARAWC. They can still apply for a QCARE designation if they meet those ten standards. So that way they can set themselves apart.

Ryan Brannan (00:38:30) That’s right. And it’s amazing response and another example of why the Texas market works so great and how we all work together. The old rising tide lifts all boats analogy I think is perfect here. And it’s just so wonderful to kick this show off with somebody who clearly cares about their employees, has so much expertise in the industry, has been around. Who knows what the innovative approaches are? Who knows how to work with the employees, knows how to get the benefits that they need, get them back to work, get everything going. And then being able to also relay that to our audience is fantastic. So thank you so much for being on the show, Michael. And also, that’s not a bad haircut you have either. I really like it a lot.

Michael Bradford (00:39:15) I’m a big fan of yours, too. Thank you so much for having me, Ryan.

Ryan Brannan (00:39:19) Absolutely. And thank you guys for joining us. It has been a pleasure talking with Michael and being with you today. This has been a great experience and happy to send off the first ARAWC Forecasting Success Podcast and looking forward to being with you again. Next time, don’t forget to link share and subscribe to ARAWC Forecasting Success. Thank you.

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