Minnesota Natural Health Legal Reform Project

Starkey Wins Governor's Award for Reducing Work Comp Claims by Rolfing

Reduce Work Comp Expenses
Congratulations to Starkey Labs, a Hearing Aid developer and manufacturer located in Minnesota and other parts of the world, for recently receiving the Governor's Award for Innovation in Workers Compensation in Minnesota. 

Nominated by MNHLRP for this award, Starkey received the Governor's Award for reducing their work comp costs $10 - 20 million dollars over the course of 15 years.  Their Carpel Tunnel Syndrome problem is non-existent at Starkey. 

Here is the entire story:

The Minnesota Natural Health Legal Reform Project had been working to over turn a provision which prohibits the payment of Work Comp funds to 146A practitioners. This provision is found in Minnesota Statute 176.135, subd 1b.

It came to the attention of MNHLRP that one of Minnesotaís best employers, Starkey Labs, in a serious attempt to lower Workers Compensation costs found great success using 146A practitioners with no supervision by licensed practitioners. Greg Schmidt, President of MHNLRP and Kathryn Berg, Vice-President of MNHLRP visited with Larry Miller, VP of Human Resources at Starkey to find out more. 

Fifteen years ago, Starkey had over 1.3 million dollars annually in workmanís compensation claims, primarily due to Repetitive Stress Injuries, or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).  Mr. Miller was given responsibility for lowering those costs.  Having had experienced Rolfing years before, he remembered how it helped him.  (For more information on rolfing, please go to www.rolf.org.) 

They brought in a Advanced Certified Rolfer to work first on the 17 people who had been diagnosed with CTS.  One woman had had surgery on one of her hands and was scheduled to have surgery on the other.  15 years later, she still doesnít have carpal tunnel in the hand that was Rolfed. At that time Carpal Tunnel surgery cost anywhere from $35,000 to $50,000.  Rolfing was $800.  AND it worked. 

Another employee had been going to the chiropractor 1x/week for years.  He decided to be part of the pilot program.  Now he sees the on-site Rolfer 2x/year. 

  • Since implementing the on-site Rolfing program, they have gone from $150,000/mo in Work Comp claims to $58,000/year in Work Comp Claims.  The work force has increased in number, but the Work Comp Claims have decreased.   
  • Miller estimates that Starkey has saved a minimum of $10 million and possibly as high as $20 million over 15 years. 
  • Starkey pays $80,000/year for Rolfing.  If Miller goes over budget for Rolfing any particular year, the owner doesnít care.
  • Their Work Comp expenses are less than Ĺ the national bench mark for light electronic assembly.  $345,000/year in claims is considered really good nationally.
  • Starkeyís MOD rate is 55.  Most companies canít get lower than 70.  He believes this is the lowest rating in the country for light electronic assembly. 
  • They have a VERY high deductible for the Work Comp insurance, so it really never kicks in. 

The on-site Rolfing covers only the shoulders, hands, arms, etc.  But if the Rolfer feels that a particular client needs an entire 10 session fix, it is partially covered by their self-funded health insurance. 

Today, Rolfing is just part of the culture at Starkey.  There was never a corporate edict, no corporate memo was sent.  Anyone can get Rolfed at Starkey.  They try to prevent injuries by using Rolfing.  But it isnít just about trying to prevent injuries, it is trying to make people comfortable.  They havenít had a CTS problem in 15 years.  New hires get a session with the Rolfer right away to develop a baseline. 

The Mayo Clinic came to Starkey to investigate how they could incorporate this into the clinic.  They had NO idea what to do with it, and so, did nothing. 

An unexpected benefit of the Rolfing program at Starkey is that their cost per hire is 50% of the national average.  They have higher retention rates than most companies in light electronic assembly and they have an easier time recruiting employees.  Millerís view is that the employees know that the employer cares about them and wants them to feel good.  An employee with fewer health issues has fewer days absent and wants to come to work.  There is no antagonism between employers and employees as regards work related injuries. 

Miller estimates that they have saved over $10 million and possibly as much as $20 million in 15 years since introducing the Rolfing program.
  As he says, it is hard to estimate the cost of something that doesnít happen.  For example, they have no missed work days for RSIís.  It is estimated that RSIís cost the country $20 billion per year.  (That number has appeared since 1997, so it is likely higher now.) 

If Labor and Industry are really serious about lowering Workers Compensation Costs, they would repeal Minnesota Statute 176.135, subd 1b