How to serve workers' comp clients in America's fastest-growing industry

How to serve workers' comp clients in America's fastest-growing industry | Insurance Business America

How to serve workers' comp clients in America's fastest-growing industry
Home healthcare is one of the nation's fastest growing industries. Insurance Business America caught up with Willis Programs' Dan Curran to discuss the opportunities and the challenges surrounding workers' compensation for employees in the industry.

IBA: How quickly is the home healthcare industry growing?
Dan Curran:
According to IBIS World, the home healthcare industry is a $75 billion business with a growth rate of 3.4% from 2009 – 2014.  The industry employs over one and a half million and is highly fragmented, with over 330,000 companies in the space.

IBA: What are the unique workers’ compensation risks faced by workers and employers in the home healthcare industry, as opposed to those faced by workers and employers generally in the healthcare industry?
DC: There are a number of exposures faced by workers in this business. A few examples are:
  • Workers must function in uncontrolled work environments. Unlike an office space or hospital which is a controlled environment with oversight with regard to housekeeping and safety, home healthcare workers operate in the homes [of] their clients which may or may not be safe and or clean.
  • From the employer’s perspective, the workers are also unsupervised and ‘injuries’ may not be witnessed.
  • Driving from patient to patient is a risk most other healthcare workers do not face.  Motor vehicle accidents generate some of the most severe injuries and Workers’ Compensation losses for this industry.
  • Employees in this industry also face heavy lifting exposures while caring for patients.  This lifting takes place in the client’s home, away from a typical healthcare setting  where other employees could help with a team lift or lifting equipment (i.e. Hoyer lift) would be available.
  • Safety training is difficult to provide and enforce given the remote nature of the workforce.
IBA: How widely appreciated or understood are those risks by the home healthcare industry?
The lifting exposure is well understood. I think that many employers and even brokers underestimate the driving exposure from a workers’ comp perspective. Many employers overlook the driving exposure as in most circumstances, company vehicles are not used, instead home healthcare providers use their own vehicles in the course of their duties.  However, when driving from one client’s to another, even in the employee’s own vehicle, an injury due to an auto accident would likely be covered by workers’ compensation. A thorough AOE/COE (arising out of employment/course of employment) investigation would need to be performed by the claim adjuster.
IBA: How grave are the consequences of underinsurance for home healthcare workers and their employers?
In most states, it would be against the law to operate without Workers’ Compensation coverage for a company with sufficient employees to deem coverage necessary.  Also, forgoing proper coverage for non-owned auto coverage or GL/ PL could also put the business in jeopardy in the event of an accident.

IBA: What advice would you offer to brokers tasked with advising clients in the home healthcare industry?
  • Be sure to help your client implement a rigorous employee screening and selection process.  Most workplace accidents are the result of human behavior; having the right people can often reduce accidents and injuries. 
  • Properly evaluate the driving exposure of the operation and make sure the employer implements best practices for safe driving. 
  • Recommend that uncontrolled work environments (client homes) should be evaluated and screened by management before healthcare providing employees are dispatched to the client’s home.