MEMIC has grown from the Maine-based workers’ compensation start-up insurer to the insurer of choice down the Eastern Seaboard, exporting the valuable lessons learned in Maine as it grows.
Those lessons have led Maine to a reduction in lost time injuries of more than 30 percent – not to mention a reduction in costs of more than 50 percent – since MEMIC’s formation in 1993.
In the early 1990s Maine’s economy was in crisis, workplace injuries and insurance costs were among the highest in the nation, insurance companies were fleeing the state and any hope of attracting new businesses to the state seemed to go with them. This crisis spurred a 17-day state government shutdown and a bipartisan Blue Ribbon Commission to recommend the creation of reforms that included a privately run mutual company, governed by the employers it insured, to be Maine’s guaranteed market. That company was named Maine Employers’ Mutual Insurance Company (MEMIC). And its efforts have turned what was once an embarrassment for the state into a genuine success story.
Not surprisingly, the company’s focus on injury prevention has proven that the best way to keep insurance affordable is to partner with employers and employees to prevent injuries through safety training and best practices. That’s why the company’s safety management consultants provide hundreds of free trainings each year at job sites all over its home state, and now all along the East Coast.
The company has helped tame some of the state’s most dangerous occupations, putting in place standards to help loggers and construction workers avoid injury. Today, some of that focus is shifting to healthcare workers who suffer the highest rates of musculoskeletal injuries like back injuries, costing U.S. employers an estimated $20 billion annually. Currently, MEMIC is investing in safety by providing hundreds of newly designed ErgoSafe Transfer Gait Belts free of charge to its healthcare facility policyholders to help reduce worker injuries through improved patient handling.
Through numerous community partnerships, MEMIC has become an industry leader in the ergonomic revolution to address the most common injuries that come both from repetitive motions and our more sedentary lifestyle. MEMIC partnered with the University of Southern Maine (USM) on the first ever Northern New England Ergo Symposium in 2006 and with its School of Applied Science, Engineering, and Technology (ASET) to develop a Specialty Certificate Program in Leadership and Ergonomics. MEMIC has partnered with Bowdoin College students using a lumbar monitoring device to measure the stress placed on workers’ backs during routine tasks at a food manufacturing plant in Portland to study how modifying tasks could ease back stress. MEMIC donated this lumbar motion monitor, valued at $35,000, to USM and also has used it in a study with the Maine-based Erin Hotel Group and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to develop safety training for hotel housekeeping staff.
As MEMIC has grown into The MEMIC Group – a super-regional workers’ compensation specialist with more than 275 employees, $1 billion in assets, licensed in 46 states and offices in 8 states across the Eastern Seaboard – it has expanded its Portland headquarters and its impact in the Greater Portland community. MEMIC is a partner with USM and others in the local insurance industry in the school’s successful Risk Management and Insurance specialty program for business majors. This program feeds fresh talent into an industry with good-paying jobs but an ever-aging workforce. These community investments help assure the sustainability of the Portland region as an insurance industry hub and helps to attract new companies like Toronto-based Sun Life Financial, whose president was quoted in the Portland Press Herald as saying, “There’s really no better place in the country for us to find great talent and a great workforce to help us grow, expand and improve our disability business.”
Investing in educating Maine’s workforce has helped MEMIC gain talent and expertise to grow, which in turn has led to more profitable investments back into the community. It’s a winning cycle for MEMIC and its home state, and one that the company hopes to continue as it grows throughout its third decade.