September 2023 Update

  • Governor Appoints Thomas Lee Bruner WC Court Judge
  • MSF Dividend & Rate Change Teaser
  • Governors’ Conference – Bozeman 9/27 - 29
  • MSIA Business & Annual Meeting
  • Sponsored by Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry Hoven and Definiti Comp Solutions/Definit Rx
  • Fill Out the Proxy if You Cannot Attend
  • Annual MSIA Member Survey

Governor Gianforte Appoints Thomas Lee Bruner WC Court Judge

Governor Gianforte announced this morning his appointment of Thomas Lee Bruner as the next WC Court Judge. Judge Bruner most recently served as Deputy Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court. Previously he had been with Doney Crowley, PC of Helena and Poore, Roth and Robinson, PC of Butte. 

Judge Bruner brings 28 years of legal experience in broad areas of the law. His priorities are expected to clear the existing backlogs and create processes to make sure that pending matters are dealt with promptly. He will also review and is expected to update the Court’s electronic communications systems, including the website. His six-year term starts next week, September 8.

MSIA member Morgan Webber, of Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry and Hoven, former MSIA member Kelly Wills and Missoula plaintiff attorney Steven Fletcher of Missoula were considered for the post as well. 

MSF Dividend & Rate Change Teaser

The Montana State Fund Board of Directors approved a $35 million dividend for their policyholders from July 2020 through December 2021. Unlike prior state fund dividend plans, this plan offers a dividend to any policyholder with coverage for at least six months during the experience period - - regardless of losses or safety programs. The clear goal of the new dividend plan for the MSF program is to provide dividends based on speed and simplicity. 

A safety-based dividend program is cumbersome and can be confusing. It requires a review of the success of individual policyholder safety program – some time after the policy ends, to determine how successful it has been. The new MSF dividend program is a non-loss sensitive program – it is based solely on customer presence and MSF financial results. 

There are plusses and minuses to the new approach. Among the plusses is in the marketplace. Agents and employers get any declared dividends closer to the policy period they are related to, and it is significantly easier to explain. In overly simplistic terms, it becomes a premium return program. We all understand a return of some of our premium (the question becomes why were my rates at that level to begin with – more on that below). According to MSF, this $35 million dividend equates to an average $1,458 premium return to MSF policyholders. 

The Board discussed lower and higher dividend amounts. The MSF management recommended $35 million as the highest they were comfortable with. Management stated they would prefer to apply their financial resources towards rates – rather than dividends. The discussion teased that we can expect MSF to lower their rates going forward based on finances, in addition to expected losses going forward. 

Sophisticated insurance professionals understand that dividends are based on actual results – typically financial and safety-oriented results. Rates are based on future projections of losses and the costs of providing coverage. As a result, dividends and rates are not particularly related. However, the management discussion of the dividend and limiting it to $35 million, indicated a desire to impact future rates (regardless of losses?) and address dividends later. The upshot is that the Montana marketplace can expect lower MSF rates next spring, in part based on the change in direction regarding their dividend program. 

Governors’ Conference – Bozeman, 9/27 -29

If you have not registered for this year’s Governors’ Conference on Workers’ Compensation, it is time to do so: 2023 Governor's Conference. This year’s line-up looks particularly good with presentations on the future of medical care – occupational health (Dr. Kenji Saito), future medical approaches to healing that are already here (Dr. Gerry Stanley) and discussions on heroes, claims management and the use of data for better decision making. Here’s a copy of the agenda for the Conference: 2023_Final_Conference_Agenda

MSIA is a Conference sponsor this year, reflecting our role in the Montana marketplace and our efforts to help make the Montana economy and workers’ compensation system, work better. 

We will hear from people who have been injured and their remarkable stories about continuing to live – and thrive – regardless of the additional obstacles they deal with daily. Billy Parker and former MSIA member Becky Curtis will address us regarding their stories and how we can use lessons from their experience to help others. MSIA Annual Meeting presenter Debra Livingston will talk to us about ReEmployAbility’s innovative and unique program to make a difference in injured workers’ lives, as well as our communities, when their time of injury employer does not have light duty opportunities. 

We will hear about the most recent updates to the Montana Utilization and Treatment Guidelines, and an update on the law – both from the legislative perspective and the Court driven changes. We expect new WC Court Judge Lee Bruner to be in attendance, although the WC Court is not making a presentation, due to the change in Judges, effective today, September 8. Judge Bruner’s’ appointment was announced in last weeks MSIA Update Extra. 

The Conference will conclude with the story of the highest-ranking member of the FDNY to survive the twin towers attack on 9/11. This year’s Conference promises to be one of the best – it kicks off with the MSIA Annual Meeting. You don’t want to miss this year – register today! 2023 Governor's Conference

MSIA Business & Annual Meeting

Sponsors: Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry & Hoven 

and Definiti Comp Solutions/Definiti Rx

The MSIA Business & Annual Meeting will start at 8:15a on Wednesday, September 27 at the Kimpton Armory Hotel in Bozeman. The business meeting is for members only. At 9a, we will start the Annual meeting and open the doors to anyone who would like to attend. Our MSIA Annual Meeting presenter Debra Livingston will talk to us about ReEmployAbility’s innovative and unique program to make a difference in injured workers’ lives, as well as our communities, when their time of injury employer does not have light duty opportunities. One CE has been assigned to Livingston’s presentation and all are welcome to attend. 

For the first time since we re-invigorated the MSIA, we will be electing a new Board of Directors. Your presence, your opinion, your voice makes a difference to our operations and the operation of the Montana workers’ compensation system. We have created a new educational platform for the system – because you told us it was needed. We have increased communications – and as a result have heard more from you – about how the system is running. We have become more active with public policymakers because you asked us to help make the Montana workers’ compensation system work better. You drive the MSIA. We need to hear your voice. 

The 2023 MSIA Business & Annual Meeting is sponsored by Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry & Hoven and Definiti Comp Solutions/Definiti Rx.

If you cannot make the meeting, it is important that you help us run the business of the Association. Associate members are needed to help make the quorum – and your voice is important. Please provide the attached Proxy Statement for quorum purposes only – it does not provide your vote on matters brought to the membership – it only permits us to run the meeting. 

We will review our financial results, the proposed budget for this year, membership opinions on the system issues as a result of the Annual Members Survey, Bylaw amendments and we will be electing a new Board of Directors. The Chair, Ann Komac of MMIA will be retiring this year and therefore her seat is vacant. Vice Chair Jamie Haun of Rosauers has already moved to a part time role and Craig Cude also of Rosauers has stepped in to fill her remaining term. Both that seat and the seat currently filled by Donna Haeder of NorthWestern are up for election this year. 

Haeder has agreed to run for the Chair slot and Cude has agreed to run for a seat as well. Other known candidates are Kevin Bartsch of the MT School Boards Group and Vicki Evans of the MT Contractors Compensation Fund. Floor nominations are welcome as well – any employer member is welcome to help us run the Association and we look forward to participation. 

Dee Walcheck, of Logan Health is the current Vice Chair and Mike Marsh, filling the Associate Board member seat, is the Secretary/Treasurer. Both of seats are up for election next year. 

Annual MSIA Member Survey 

The Annual Member Survey is out and we’ve already been getting responses. All responses are kept in the strictest of confidence. Your opinions help determine our positions and approaches to the issues within the system. 

Please email your responses to the Member Survey by September 22. All responses will be assigned a number, ‘Response 1’ ‘Response 2’ etc, to assure confidentiality within our systems and no individual response will be shared with anyone. Please note, I will be out of the country at that time, so my response thanking you, will be somewhat delayed.