From the Front Lines: Workers Compensation

Deb Conway PlatheDeb Conway-Plathe

Agent
PMC Advantage Insurance Services, Inc.
Algona, Iowa

How did you get started at your agency?

I’ve been a licensed agent since 1991. I moved to Iowa from California a little over 28 years ago and joined a family-owned agency. Pharmacists Mutual Company, which is the parent company for PMC advantage, bought that family-owned agency out a decade ago. I write workers compensation, along with many other lines of business, but Iowa workers comp is what I know best.

Why workers comp?

Our mission is to give our clients peace of mind. Workers comp protects the employer, as well as the employee. It’s a financial benefit and has advantages for both parties. It’s also a legal requirement in Iowa.

Biggest workers comp changes?

Since 2017, new laws in Iowa have expanded the insurance market and we’ve had a flood of new companies offering work comp. The new laws benefited the carriers, which helps them manage their risk more effectively. But they also gave employers a little more control to manage their risk, as well.

Biggest workers comp challenges?

Managing claims. Especially in situations where the employer doesn’t have to reimburse the employee unless they’re willing to obtain an independent medical exam with a doctor of the company’s choosing. Also, the changes in the light-duty return-to-work program and the increase in stress-related workers comp claims, which are more difficult to diagnose.

Future of workers comp?

Workers comp limits can be as low as $100,000. But with the rising cost of medical care and the ability to calculate stress-related payouts, it’s imperative that we continue to have conversations with our customers to encourage them to purchase appropriate limits.

Workers comp advice for a fellow agent?

Verify the state your client is working in because every state has specific laws. Also, stress the importance of keeping payroll records for specific job duties. And simply have a conversation with your clients so that you understand the risk you’re insuring. I like to go out to the job site and see what an average day looks like for them. Are they climbing roofs, cutting down trees, pouring concrete or sitting at a desk?

Favorite workers comp success story?

Most workers comp claims that I can recall are all horrendous. You can’t make light of it because people’s livelihoods are at stake. A success story would be if an employee gets injured, recovers successfully, has a good experience in the return to work program, the downtime on the company is minimal and the customer has adequate limits to satisfy the claim.

Will Jones is IA senior editor.