Integrated Disability and Absence Management Comes into the Fold

For the 9th time out of 10 conferences, I had the pleasure of attending the annual International Claims Association Education Conference, this year held in Denver, Colorado.  One of my colleagues, Christy Traupe, Product Market Manager, is a “first-timer” to the conference and wrote about her insights about the conference (see When Technology and Claims Management Come Together).  I enjoyed her blog because, through her fresh eyes, she brings out the point that, once again, technology, through the use of Robotic Processing Automation (RPA) (processes and rules) and analytical scores, can help drive automated decisions and perform mundane processes in order to help the user (e.g., claim examiner) spend more time on risk management.

As for me, before signing up for the conference sessions, I looked over the list and wanted to make sure I answered the question in my head “what new insights will I have to share?”  I have been on the software side of the insurance industry almost 22 years, both with policy administration and claims, and as a “grizzled” veteran of insurance conferences, I knew I needed to vary my session interests.  Luckily, several sessions about absence management and paid family and medical leave (PFML) were on the docket!  I said to myself “Wow, this was the first time I’ve seen as many sessions on that topic!”  Of course, I signed up, attended the sessions, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Why was I so excited?  With the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), its amendments, compulsory state disability plans, and now the various flavors of state paid family and medical leave (PFML) are being approved and growing, some employers have found it difficult to interpret and administrate the various plans.  In fact, Marjory Robertson, JD, and AVP & Senior Counsel at Sun Life, gave a fantastic presentation on the ever changing and evolving landscape of state leave laws.  It is amazing how states are considering and approving paid leave laws and the different benefits provided.

So how does this all “add up” with the employee benefits, such as short-term disability?  Some of the leave types, such as the birth of a child, not only trigger a response from a group short-term disability coverage, but also from FMLA and possible coordination with some state’s compulsory disability plans.  Add to that if a state pays for a period of paid leave for child bonding after the “disability” period, there is a lot of coordination that needs to be done!

More and more during the last 8-10 years, insurance carriers absence management have taken on the task of providing absence management administration to their employer customers.  During this same time period, at insurance conferences and from my work experience, the key focus has been about providing the end customer, a.k.a. the claimant, with better customer service.  How?  By having them talk to one claim personnel to handle the entire claim event.  Absence management dove-tails nicely into the “one stop” paradigm because, as I mentioned earlier, an event trigger, such as child delivery, child bonding, or an employee’s own serious health condition, would have federal, state, etc. paid and unpaid absence plans respond to the event as well.  Being able to manage the event wholistically allows an insurance carrier to provide the end customer a better claims management experience.  A better end customer experience filters up to the employer, which in turn leads to better plan retention by the insurance carrier.


Though there are several educational courses dealing with the specifics of absence management, being able to learn about it at the annual ICA Education Conference is important for claims-type personnel. Why?  I learned about absence management in the “fast and furious” world of software sales.  It can be a trial by fire and the basics can be missed at times.   ICA conference sessions provide a great learning environment so attendees can immerse themselves (if not already) and join the world of absence management.  In addition, feel free to educate yourself about absence management anytime by checking out our Blog, or visit our FINEOS Absence page.

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