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Let’s Move Forward: A Message from Jennifer Hurless, President of PartnerSource

While the great majority of us – all of us, I hope – are following guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by staying still, I would like to ask all of us to consider something else: Moving forward.

I’m not talking about ignoring a quarantine, gathering in groups, or making unnecessary trips. I’m talking about doing what you can, today, to move your business and your life forward.

Here’s what we know: It’s easy to get paralyzed with fear in uncertain times. It’s easy for our minds to wander, distracted with news that comes at a seemingly frenetic pace. It’s also a natural process for our brains to focus on potential threats – it’s something neuroscientists call “negativity bias,” and it evolved to keep us safe as humans. These things are all hard-wired into our brains and predispose our reactions to events like the ones happening around us right now. 

These are things science tells us, and they are valid. But history tells us something more – that we can be truly great even in the face of threat.  So today, I am going to ask something of you that I have also asked of myself. I’m going to ask you to find what you can do, and do that.

As the president of PartnerSource, a leading organization in my industry, I know that it is my responsibility to carry on. Hundreds of thousands of employees depend on companies like ours that advocate for responsible alternative injury benefit plans. It is my job to move forward.  As you may already know, PartnerSource is open for business, even as we practice safe procedures, and we are working hard to keep your Texas injury benefit program on track. We do this because it’s important to us, and crucial to our industry.

Within your company and your industry, you, too, have an important role. People depend on the job that you do every day. Your colleagues and clients need you. Your family also depends on you as they try to move forward.

You may remember that in our January newsletter, we announced that in 2020, PartnerSource would be even more focused on innovation. It’s a term, a notion, and a process we hold dear, as innovation is the very reason we exist as a company. An idea for an alternative to workers’ comp eventually created better medical outcomes for injured employees while creating more options for companies with employees in the state of Texas. Back in early January, we didn’t know that our PartnerSource VISION: 2020 would have such far-reaching implications. We all certainly need a healthy dose of innovation this year as we find new ways to combat challenges, and we are glad to be finding those as we go.

This thought keeps me optimistic: We, as a society of evolved humans, are innovative and creative, and we are at our best when we are productive. So let’s do what we can do, what we need to do, what we are able to do. I’m asking you to put innovation on your side, and to figure out what you can do to move forward.  If there is one thing these events have taught us, it’s that we’re all in this together.

Let’s avoid the threat of paralysis by showing what’s possible even when our lives are different. Follow the quarantine guidelines. Wash your hands, check on your friends and neighbors, make sure your elderly friends and relatives are OK, work with your child’s school to give your children what they need.

And stop focusing on what can’t be done so that you can free your brain up to focus on what can be done. Innovate. It’s up to all of us to move forward in spite of this. Humans are creative creatures, and we are often at your best when situations are not optimal.

I’m asking myself to move forward, and I urge you to do the same.

COVID-19 and Texas Injury Benefit Programs

How can COVID-19 impact Texas workplaces? From maintaining safe workplaces to understanding how your company’s Texas injury benefit plan could cover workplace injury claims, you may have questions. Read this and speak with your PartnerSource team lead today.

Safety First.  For most employers with a Texas injury benefit program, maintaining a safe workplace is a regular, ongoing practice and always at the forefront.  These employers are already communicating employee safety standards that will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  Because these employers have potential negligence liability exposure for workplace injuries, it is critical to establish, clearly communicate and enforce such standards with your Texas employees.  Many employers are also considering whether an employee’s exposure to and/or contracting of COVID-19 would be considered a covered work injury under their Texas injury benefit plan. 

Review Your Plan and Insurance Policy.  Unlike Texas workers’ compensation – which is subject to uniform statutory requirements – Texas injury benefit programs can vary greatly depending on (1) how the benefit plan and insurance policy define or exclude coverage, and (2) how a particular employer, third party administrator or insurance carrier interprets those coverage provisions.  Accordingly, each employer should (1) carefully review their specific Texas injury benefit plan and insurance policy, and (2) consult with their legal departments, insurance carriers, program consultants and outside counsel in order to make informed decisions regarding workplace injury claims related to COVID-19.

Confirm Occupational Disease Coverage.  As a starting place, we know that every responsible Texas injury benefit program provides coverage for injury by accident, occupational disease and cumulative trauma.  Start by finding the occupational disease coverage provision in your program documents.  But don’t stop there.

Is It Work-Related?  Next, for many PartnerSource-developed programs – as well as many Texas injury benefit insurance policies - a workplace incident can be excluded “under circumstances where the Participant’s employment did not place him or her at a greater risk of injury than the Participant would have been exposed to as a member of the general public.”  Many of these plans and policies will also specify that an “Occupational Disease” does not include “ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is exposed outside of a Participant’s assigned work duties.”  Texas workers’ compensation law has this same coverage exclusion.  As a result, many Texas injury benefit plans and policies will not cover indirect exposures to medical conditions – such as catching the flu or COVID-19 from a coworker, vendor or customer.

Some healthcare employers have recognized exceptions to this general rule with respect to workers that are directly treating a patient with a known infectious disease.  In this narrow situation, these employers provide injury benefit plan coverage if (1) the employee has a known work-related exposure (for example, a needlestick) and/or (2) has regular ongoing work-related exposures and the incubation time between these exposures and conversion is consistent with established medical guidelines for the infectious disease.  Keep in mind, however, that some Texas injury benefit plans and policies will also have a blanket exclusion for injuries resulting from “biological contaminants.”  For this reason, healthcare employers should consult with their insurance carrier to determine whether a policy endorsement may be necessary in order for their insurance carrier to cover this unique situation.

Testing and Related Time Off.  Next, many PartnerSource-developed Texas injury benefit plans and certain Texas injury benefit insurance policies include medical coverage related to “services rendered primarily for training, testing, evaluation, counseling or educational purposes.”  If a Texas employee had a known exposure that required testing and lost worktime while test results are pending, the employer and carrier could rely on this provision for medical and wage replacement benefits  

However, most Texas injury benefit plans and policies likely would not cover any preventive testing or related time off work.  Employers generally should review their non-occupational benefit plans, employee health/wellness resources and paid time off/leave of absence policies to determine what coverage Texas employees may have for preventive testing or related time off work.  
Next Steps.  Other steps employers should consider with respect to COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:

  • Discussing with your insurance carrier how your Texas injury benefit policy’s per employee and per occurrence coverage will apply to a COVID-19 exposure to multiple employees;
  • Reviewing and reinforcing safety policies related to business travel (particular non-essential business travel and travel outside the U.S.);
  • Reviewing and reinforcing safety policies related to general workplace hygiene;
  • Implementing policies and providing additional resources for employees to work from home (including actively encouraging sick employees to stay home from the workplace);
  • Reviewing and/or implementing business continuation plans and policies; 
  • Ensuring that you educate employees on available COVID-19 information and government resources (such as the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”), the Texas Department of Insurance and the Texas Department of State Health Services); and
  • Proactively encouraging employees to follow CDC prevention guidelines both inside and outside the workplace.

The CDC website provides extensive COVID-19 resources and information at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV.

Your Texas injury benefit program supports the immediate and long-term health and safety of your Texas employees and their families.  For further information or assistance, please consult your PartnerSource Team Leader.

Last Chance to Register for Complimentary Webinar

How much do you know about QCARE, the most important Texas injury benefit development in almost 20 years? Join us for a special webinar featuring PartnerSource experts answering questions, like:

  • What is QCARE?
  • Why are rebranding and industry standards needed?
  • How can PartnerSource help get you the QCARE designation?
  • What does it mean for the industry?

PartnerSource VISION: 2020 – Seeing QCARE Clearly is a complimentary, 30-minute webinar offered on Tuesday, March 24 at 10 a.m. CDT, and Thursday, March 26 at 2 p.m. CDT.

Register today!

(This program is not sponsored or endorsed by the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation.)

Why QCARE?

Why QCARE?  We asked the experts! Representatives from ARAWC were on-hand at the PartnerSource Employers' Conference in October to talk about how Texas is a model for the rest of the country in alternatives to workers' compensation, and how the new QCARE designation symbolizes employers' commitment to responsible plans. Here’s what they said.

5 Great Ideas

Here are five great ideas for keeping the spirit of teamwork alive while working from home during Coronavirus from Wirecutter.  

 

PartnerSource in the News:

PartnerSource President Jennifer Hurless was recently interviewed by “The Strackhouse: Women at Work” on her inspirations and path to leadership. Watch here.

Five Questions with: Chad Daraphone

Before he ever started working on the PartnerSource team, Chad Daraphone was an adjustor who worked with PartnerSource on claims. That’s when he began to understand the difference that PartnerSource makes.  He joined the company in April of 2019 as a claims adjuster interfacing with injured workers.  Read on to learn more about Chad.  [LINK to article.]

You worked with PartnerSource before you worked at PartnerSource.  Now that you are here, how do you feel about what PartnerSource does?

When I first got into being an adjustor (before joining PartnerSource), I found that the people here were such a great resource for me, so I’ve always had a positive outlook in regard to PartnerSource and what it does. I see what this industry does as something that is really positive.  We all are collectively getting the injured employee the help they need, and getting it quickly! I think it’s good for the employer and the employee because of the way the treatment is given so quickly. There’s not a lot of downtime, and that makes a difference in people’s lives.

Early in your career, you were a parole officer.  What did you learn in that role?

One of the biggest things that translated from parole officer to my adjuster role, and now my claims manager position, is being able to listen, and to communicate back in a way that the person can understand.  Nobody likes someone telling them what to do, and with parolees, you have to be able to communicate in a way that they will both accept it and will respect you.  In my opinion, there can be a lot of negative emotion in an employee who thinks their job hurt them in some way. That’s why it’s important that we need to be able to communicate their plan benefits to them as quickly as possible so they not only know that they have a contact in the event they have questions, but also so that they have the peace of mind that someone is there to help them.  Communication is key in all roles.

What keeps you busy when you’re not working?

My twin five-year-old girls, Reagan and Ryann!  I spend a lot of time with them. On weekends, I like to take them out to museums or to the park.  My girls actually like to go to museums and particularly love the Dallas Contemporary Museum.  We recently saw an exhibit there with dresses from a famous designer, Jeremy Scott, and they enjoyed seeing the elaborate dresses and walking a little runway they had there. My wife, Nickie, and I enjoyed watching them enjoy themselves.  Personally, I enjoy traveling and trying new foods. 

“Daraphone” is such a unique last name. Where is it from?

My family is originally from Laos, and that’s where the name came from.  In Lao, our last name is pronounced “dala-pon.”  People in Laos use a different alphabet, which is similar to Thai letters and other Southeast Asian alphabets. I’m pretty sure we are the only Daraphone family in the U.S.! I grew up in Dumas, a Texas town of about 12,000 people. Then moved to “big city” of Amarillo, and then to Canyon, about 15 miles south of Amarillo, where I went to college and met my wife. 

Do you have a personal motto or philosophy?

I try to be as kind and fair with people as possible.  I think fairness is really important, especially in the workplace.  Treating people equally is important to me. In choosing a workplace, I want to make sure that everyone is treated equally, because that’s how I like to treat other people. Also, I try to surround myself with good, positive people.  If I see a trait in them that I admire, I might try to adopt what they’re doing or how they think through things.  It gives me insight as to how else I could perceive things.

International Women's Day 2020: #EachforEqual 

In March, we celebrated International Women's Day, the theme for which is "#EachforEqual." We agree with people around the world who say that equality is not a women's issue -- it's a business issue. At PartnerSource, we believe in a gender-equal workplace, where talents are recognized first. We are proud of our company's female and male leadership and believe that by working together and being seen as equals, we all rise. 

(Photo credit: Kris Hundt; taken at 2019 PartnerSource Employers' Conference)

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