National Underwriter P&C Sink Would Stress Risk Management as Fla. Governor

Posted by Sam Friedman, NU Editor in Chief

National Underwriter Online News Service, Aug. 18, 12:15 p.m. EDT

ORLANDO, FLA.Alex Sink has a good shot of becoming the next governor of Florida, and I am not just saying that because she gave National Underwriter in general, and me in particular, a nice compliment in her speech today in Orlando at the Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference, where NU puts on the National Trends program.

Ms. Sink, spotting me on the podium with her as she took the stage to speak, told the WCEC’s general session that reading NU keeps her informed about the insurance business, and is required “plane reading” during her journeys around the Sunshine State. She also said she likes checking out my column to “see who Sam will jab next.”

I don’t recall jabbing Ms. Sink at any point in her tenure as CFO, and I certainly won’t today.

In fact, I really liked her speech. Listening to her talk repeatedly about the need to “take a business-like approach” in government, based on the lessons she learned during nearly 30 years in business herself, she sounds more like a traditional Republican than a Democrat–and that is meant as a compliment.

She also walks the walk, not just talks the talk, when it comes to risk management. Indeed, she noted that early on in her term, with Florida paying over $100 million a year in workers’ comp claims, she met with the risk managers of private companies–citing Disney and Publix as examples–inviting them to review and assess how the state handled comp and workplace safety.

She recalled that the peer review found “we were doing everything backwards” by focusing on generating reports about injuries and losses sustained, rather than on preventing workplace accidents from happening in the first place.

As a result, she said she had state departments focus more intently on medical case management and back-to-work programs. “No one likes sitting at home twiddling their thumbs waiting to see a specialist,” she noted, adding that her department made sure treatment was initiated more aggressively to get people back on the job.

“You have to spend upfront and send someone to a specialist right away to get them back on the job faster,” she said. “That’s worth the investment.”

Ms. Sink is a true believer in risk management. She had the state’s TPA do some hand’s-on exposure assessments–visiting prisons, for example, to see what hazards state employees faced and determining what could be done to mitigate them.

Ms. Sink will have her hands full if she is elected governor next year. She noted that for the first time since 1947, Florida actually lost population. She blamed that negative development on high unemployment in the construction-driven state, thanks to the inevitable bust in the real estate bubble.

“We need to remake Florida with a more diversified economy generating higher-paying and more stable jobs,” she said. “To attract those types of jobs, we’ll need to bolster our education system.”

Of course, insurance is also likely to dominate next year’s gubernatorial campaign, especially if another major storm hits Florida between now and then–a not unlikely event, unfortunately. But at least Florida would have in place a governor who actually knows something about insurance for a change–not just because she reads National Underwriter, but because insurance is part of her daily job and a key part of her agenda.