A Christmas Carol – revisited

By: Steve Cattolica, SC Advocates & CWCSA

Changing one’s mind takes time - and sometimes forced opportunity. Ask Ebenezer Scrooge.
Often, we run out of time to even create the opportunity; to step back and see a bigger picture. Just as often it seems, we don’t want to see a bigger picture, we do not see the purpose or value in doing so. Besides, if the picture gets too big, one loses control of the environment. We hunker down in our “money changing hole” as Marley reminds Scrooge.
If our ox is gored by change, there’s no way we will consider it. Ebenezer’s story comes around once a year to remind us that what has been, is not what must always be.
Over the three plus decades of my career in workers’ compensation, discussions about legislation and regulation, policy and procedure, costs and financing, claims and medical care, claims and the legal community and between injured workers and their employers haven’t changed too much. Details may change – especially across state lines and when the Feds are involved and we all lament growing twists of an ever-growing volume of rules and legal precedent. However, the fundaments are relatively the same.
From my perspective, especially in today’s over-polarized political and social climate, the dynamics of these conversations are greatly hindered by the loss of institutional knowledge and the art of true compromise – where each participant comes forward to actively solve a problem and each participant also gains something they did not have previously. If there are more than two “sides” to the issue, it seems few know how or have the desire to expand their thinking.
When one experiences an injury or illness occurring in and because of the work environment, it is different than the same injury or illness caused elsewhere. How much of that difference is organic to the workplace and how much is caused by the system itself? What about the injury is different? What is it about the injured or ill person themselves that is different? Does anyone really believe that deep down, the injured or ill want to be sick, hurt or disabled? Unfortunately for some, that can be true. Very real conditions prevent a better outlook. It’s incumbent upon all of us to assure that the system and nothing we do enables these folks to continue on that track.  So how would that work?
A coincidental survey of events indicates several initiatives in various parts of the nation that might point to an extraordinary opportunity to put the injured worker first. Not in any particular order, these events include a presentation by Bill Zachry of the Sedgwick Institute and Kathy Schroeder of Office Depot at the recently completed National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference. They spoke about critical factors that affect an employee’s return to work, some of which have little to do with the workplace itself and a lot to do with how the system treats the employee. Another was the arrival of “Workers’ Compensation Insights,” a newsletter published by Prop 23 Advisors’ Mark Webb. Mark reported about a multi-state Department of Labor demonstration project aimed at improving “stay-at-work and “return to work” outcomes for disabled workers–regardless of the origin of the disability.  The next was an article by Workcompwire summarizing a study by the Texas Department of Insurance showing Texas making great progress in the wake of HB 7, its landmark “opt out” legislation that enabled establishment of programs that improve return-to-work rates, physician participation, dramatically lower the number of medical disputes and improves access to care. Next, is the recent unearthing by yours truly of a report chronicling the success of the Pacific Bell “24-hour” care pilot undertaken in the 1990s in San Diego. Last is California’s emergent conversation about single payer/universal health care.  
Blasphemy! I don’t believe so. Simply raising the possibility is not an endorsement. However, I will own that it does raise the possibility we do not know everything (yet) and there might be a better way. I’m sure there is room for better outcomes for all sides involved.
Giving up on no one…for those with a short view and a single mind, the “Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come” would like to give you a tour of your future which ends with receiving a copy of Coach John Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success Playbook,” and a discussion about possibilities with Steve Kerr, Head Coach of the Golden State Warriors. He’s someone we all could learn from.
PS – If you have young kids at home, an awesome holiday gift is John Wooden’s book, “Inch and Miles,” an adaptation of Coach’s fundamentals aimed at young kids. – Moms and Dads, too!

Happy Holidays!


  1. Merry Christmas Steve -I hope that you and your family have a Blessed time.

    To answer your question in regards to what is the difference between my workplace injury and a similar injury not within a workplace the only difference is how the process "works".
    First the need for a mountain of forms to be filled in and then processed and then for someone who I will never meet makes a decision as to whether or not my claim is legitimate or not- emergency medical treatment is provided but serious intervention needs to wait and wait and wait and then when that period of waiting is done there is more waiting.
    In the meant time the forms are passed through multiple hands and each person makes a yes no decision about where the form goes to next..... all of this happens without me knowing anything of the process.
    Had my injury happened anywhere else the impact would have been the same, however the required medical/surgical intervention would have taken place within weeks not almost 4yrs later by which time far more invasive surgery had to happen and the consequences of the delay still impact on me almost 25yrs post workplace injury.

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