November 20, 2014


Check out a freshly posted Health Wonk Review: The Turkey Edition at HealthBlawg. David Harlow hosts and it is chock full of good content and some fun seasonal links to boot - mosey on over to take a gander, pilgrim!

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November 14, 2014


Keeping two sets of books has come to be the cliche for fraud and deceit. You expect it to be confined to the realm of cartoon villains, but it was one of many damning indicators reported to inspectors during a more than four-year investigation into circumstances surrounding the mining disaster that claimed 29 lives at the Massey-owned Upper Big Branch Mine. One book especially for the inspectors, one book for operations.

Yesterday was the day that many of the surviving family members thought would never come. Longtime Massey CEO Don Blankenship was indicted on four criminal counts: three felonies and one misdemeanor, which carry a maximum combined penalty of 31 years imprisonment.

"A federal grand jury in Charleston charged Blankenship with conspiring to cause willful violations of ventilation requirements and coal-dust control rules -- meant to prevent deadly mine blasts --during a 15-month period prior to the worst coal-mining disaster in a generation.
The four-count indictment, filed in U.S. District Court, also alleges that Blankenship led a conspiracy to cover up mine safety violations and hinder federal enforcement efforts by providing advance warning of government inspections."

The the 43-page indictment outlines a long list of sins: repeated and serious violations of safety laws; actions designed to impede and deceive regulators and inspectors; and coverups and deception during the disaster investigation. It also includes charges of deception to the SEC and "...materially false statements and representations, and materially misleading omissions, made in connection with the purchase and sale of Massey stock."

Ken Ward, Jr. has been covering this in great detail both in the Charleston Gazette and on his Coal Tattoo blog. See his Blankenship indicted post - he links to a timeline of events, reactions of family members, a summary of convictions so far.

Other media coverage

Agencies Speak Out About The Indictment Of Don Blankenship

Ex-Executive Donald Blankenship Is Indicted in Disaster at Coal Mine

Former CEO Indicted For Alleged Role In Deadly Mine Disaster

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship indicted in 2010 mine disaster

Prior related posts

UBB mine disaster: the plot thickens as former CEO Blankenship implicated

More charges in Upper Big Branch Mine disaster criminal probe

MSHA: Upper Big Branch Miner Deaths Were "Entirely Preventable"

Massey Energy Mine Disaster: The Soul of a Bean Counter

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November 13, 2014


Cavalcade Of Risk #221,: Birds of a Feather - Claire Wilkinson of Terms + Conditions hosts this weeks' biweekly roundup, and it's a good one!

First up: Peril, and Daring, at 1 World Trade Center as Window Washers Are Trapped - Dramatic photos and reports of yesterday's rescue via the New York Times. Today's report: Workers Rescued From Dangling Scaffolding "Doing Well", which includes footage of the rescues. Good job, first responders!

Wrangling With John Burton Over the Future of Workers' Comp
A workers comp must-read. The International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) featured a "point-counterpoint" type presentation in its annual Peer Review Journal. This edition features John Burton, Professor Emeritus at Rutgers and Cornell, and presidentially appointed Chairman of the 1972 Federal Commission on Workmen's Compensation and Robert "Bob's Cluttered Desk" Wilson, workers comp internet entrepreneur/visionary and President and CEO of Burton's article "Should There Be a 21st Century National Commission on Workers' Compensation Laws?" suggests a direction for the future and Wilson's article "The Case for Workers' Recovery" suggests a philosophical change for the industry. Download and read the series of articles.

WorkCompWire: NCCI Publishes Workers Compensation Financial Results Update - NCCI's State of the Line report indicated favorable industry results for 2013. Industrywide statutory data for 2013 indicates little difference between NCCI's preliminary estimates and the final results for most of the major financial measures. For Calendar Year 2013, NCCI initially estimated workers compensation premium volume net of reinsurance to be $37.0 billion for private carriers. This compares to the actual data reported by the industry of $36.7 billion. NCCI estimated an industrywide workers compensation combined ratio of 101 for 2013; actual data reported by the industry indicates a combined ratio of 101.3. 9. (You can access and download the full report free: NCCI Workers Compensation Financial Results Update.

ARAWC: A New Force for Change
Chris Mandel is SVP, strategic solutions for Sedgwick. "This new national organization was formed by a coalition of employers and workers' compensation system providers after many realized the benefits achieved in Texas and those anticipated in Oklahoma. The board and ARAWC's members have an intense interest in seeing employees better cared for by a more optimally designed and managed system. By seeking options to traditional workers' compensation, the organization has a goal of also driving economic development through the attraction of employer savings."
Related: Roberto Ceniceros - National Employers Push for Comp Options

Court to rule on health care subsidies
SCOTUS Blog: "The Supreme Court, moving back into the abiding controversy over the Affordable Care Act, agreed early Friday afternoon to decide how far the federal government can extend its program of subsidies to buyers of health insurance. At issue is whether the program of tax credits applies only in the consumer marketplaces set up by sixteen states, and not at federally operated sites in thirty-four states."
- Ezra Klein: The huge new threat to Obamacare, explained in 2 minutes
- Jonathan Cohn: Obamacare Returns to the Supreme Court
- Republicans to Chip at Obamacare by Redefining Work Hours
- Report: Healthcare premium increases 'quite low' in 2015
- Bob Laszewski: Is the Administration Low-Balling Their 2015 Obamacare Enrollment?

The American public is skeptical about workers' comp
Julius Young of WorkersCompZone reviews the results of a Harris Interactive poll on attitudes to workers compensation. "Instead of celebrating the social bargain that created workers' comp, too often the perception is that the system is out of control. And that stakeholders are only out to aggrandize their share of the pie. / Ultimately this has made it hard for injured worker advocates to gain much traction in the court of public opinion."

NPR investigation: Injuries and violations continue at coal mines that owe millions in fines
Keb Ward, Coal Tattoo: "Our friends at NPR News and the Mine Safety and Health News -- Howard Berkes and Ellen Smith -- have just posted some remarkable new work from a year-long investigation of what happens when coal mine operators never have to actually pay the safety fines that are assessed for violations of federal standards."

Who insures short-duration work-injury caused absences?

Terry Bogyo: "Without data, it is hard to estimate the number of work-related absence cases that are going uncompensated because of waiting periods. Without measurement, it is hard to see if this burden is shrinking or growing. Without a financial implication, the case for prevention may be less than it might otherwise be."

'Open' in Texas Causes a Workers' Compensation Roadblock
Joan E. Collier, wci360: "Well, here's an interesting item from Texas. An investigative reporter with CBS Dallas/Ft. Worth radio station KRLD has uncovered what he says "may be a loophole that blocks anyone who has ever used workers' compensation in Texas from getting Medicare claims paid."

Workers comp controversy grows as more business owners complain of bills from the state (NY)
Jim Kenyon, "...Michael T. Berns, former Commissioner on the State Workers Comp Board, now runs a website critical of the way the Board operates. He blames the Board for allowing the self-insured trusts to run up multi-million dollar debts. "The State of New York allowed what I would call a Ponzi scheme to take place and therefore the State of New York should take the responsibility of making these people whole." Berns said."

Elite Doctor Network Targets Florida for Medical Tourism

"Inbound (to the US) medical tourism is a $5 billion industry with an estimated 1 million patients each year travelling to the United States to access some of the world's best medical care. While much of that revenue has historically gone to major hospitals, new technologies - like Telehealth - have made it feasible for individual doctors in private practice to participate. HelloMD has an international strategy, with translation of its growing body of content into five languages, and strategic alliances in China and elsewhere."

Brief Takes

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November 11, 2014


Veterans Employment Toolkit

" help employers, managers and supervisors, human resource professionals, and employee assistance program (EAP) providers relate to and support their employees who are Veterans and members of the Reserve and National Guard.

In this toolkit, you can learn about Veterans and the military, such as what Veterans bring to the workplace and what the military structure and culture is like. You can also learn how to support employees who are Veterans or members of the Reserve or National Guard in the workplace, through reading about common challenges and how to help, reviewing communication tips, reading a report about Veterans in the workplace, or by downloading handouts to use with EAP clients. Finally, Veterans and their family members can find employment resources for Veterans."

Veterans in the Workplace Project

Information for HR Practitioners - Statutes & Regulations

More employment resources for hiring vets

Veterans Crisis Line


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November 7, 2014


Here's a fascinating clip on high voltage cable inspection, which the poster says is "not a job for a hot duck."

For more information on the clip, see the description under the video at YouTube. If you're thinking of this as a possible career path, see The Salary of a High Voltage Cable Inspector. But be aware that robots may be encroaching on your career aspirations.

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November 7, 2014


Waiting for your biweekly dose of health wonkery? Wait no more - Jennifer Salopek has a fresh post at Wing of Zock - Health Wonk Review: The Election Week Edition. Topics include the ACA, Ebola, MD kickbacks, venture capital healthcare investments & more - check it out.

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November 5, 2014


As we approach the holiday season and millions of Americans plan for poultry as a dining choice, OSHA has cited Wayne Farms for a variety of serious worker safety violations. While these types of citations constitute news that is generally only of interest in the health and safety circuit, they speak much more widely to general public health issues that should concern us all.

OSHA initiated its inspection of Wayne Farms after worker complaints about dangerous conditions in the company's Jack, Alabama facility. According to the SPLC, which filed the complaint:

"The complaint, filed on behalf of nine current or former employees, describes how workers are subjected to dangerously fast work speeds that cause disabling injuries, prevented from getting medical treatment and even fired for reporting injuries or taking time off to see a doctor. It also outlines how workers are required to pay the company for some of their protective equipment. They are even denied reasonable access to the bathroom, according to the complaint."

Celeste Monforton reports on the OSHA's findings of serious and repeat violations for "prolonged repetitive, forceful tasks, often in awkward postures for extended periods of time" and gross deficiencies in the company's lockout/tagout procedures, a violation that had previously been leveled at one of the company's other processing plants.

The health and well-being of food processing workers is inextricably linked to important public health considerations. Injured, over-tired workers are not a good front-line defense against salmonella and other dangerous food contaminants. Last year, the USDA was considering a proposal to speed up bird processing from an already demanding 140 birds per minute to 175 - see our post USDA: What's up with your "for the birds" food processing legislation? After a two year battle over the issues, the Agriculture Department finally dropped the proposal this past July. On the other hand, the USDA also privatized and decreased the number of food inspectors and failed to act on antibiotic-resistant salmonella, so it wasn't all good news.

NIOSH Finds Alarming 42 % Rate of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) at South Carolina Poultry Processing Plant. (See the full report)

The human cost of bringing poultry to the table .

Reactions Vary to USDA's Poultry Inspection Rule

Food & Water Watch Sues USDA Over New Poultry Inspection Rule

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October 30, 2014


It's the All Treats No Tricks Cavalcade of Risk this week! Louise Norris is hosting over at Colorado Health Insurance Insider. You may recall that Louise just hosted Health Wonk Review too, whew - she's in demand!

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October 23, 2014


Louise Norris has posted the falling leaves edition of Health Wonk Review at Colorado Health Insurance Insider. It's a packed, pre-election edition covering a smorgasboard of topics, from open enrollment and the continuing saga of Obamacare to Ebola and prayer groups. Many thanks to Louise and Jay Norris for hosting.

Don't know about where you are, but here in New England, the "falling leaves" theme hits the mark. After a glorious foliage season, a multi-day deluge is taking its toll on the seasonal color. Driving in the wet, fallen leaves will be precarious today so take care!

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October 22, 2014


What's the verdict on Ebola and workers' comp? We've gathered a roundup of what industry leaders are saying on this topic, as well as broader insurance issues. While Ebola and workers comp claims might be a relatively negligible issue, the larger issue of protecting workers from infectious disease is always one worth considering. Plus, there are other ways that Ebola may impact the business environment in general and business insurance specifically: business travel, supply chain disruptions, business interruptions, liability, malpractice and new coverage options, to name a few considerations.

Workers at highest risk would be health care and humanitarian workers in the countries most directly affected, Here in the U.S., hospital staff, public health personnel, humanitarian workers and first responders would be on the front lines for any additional outbreaks. Other workers with potential exposure might include waste disposal workers, cleaning staff, morticians, laboratory researchers and scientists, airline workers and business travelers.

Before we look at some of the insurance and prevention considerations, a little perspective from Vox by way of a brief and compelling video.

But remember, when you scare people enough, facts don't always matter. Case in point: A Maine teacher who was placed on leave after visiting Dallas -- even though she had no contact whatsoever with anyone associated with the Ebola outbreak. Journalist Maryn McKenna logs more Ebola overreactions under the category of Ebolanoia on her blog "Further Adventures of Germ Girl." (Her articles on Ebola at Wired at worth following.)

Ebola, Workers Comp & Other Insurance Considerations

Christopher J. Boggs of Insurance Journal takes a nuts & bolts look at the two-part litmus test of compensability under workers comp and how Ebola claims would stack up in Is Ebola Compensable Under Workers' Compensation?

Dave DePaolo looks at Ebola & Work Comp and expresses concern about our capacity to handle an outbreak, noting that "If ever there was a situation where there should be no distinction between workers' compensation medical treatment and general health, the current Ebola situation is it. Delivery of medical care in workers' compensation is just fine for broken bones, even for something like black lung disease.
The way medical care in workers' compensation is delivered creates a real, and significant, national health problem when confronted with a potential pandemic like Ebola."

Katie Siegel of Risk & Insurance says that although risk to US health care workers remains low, an Ebola outbreak could pose a workers' comp risk to the industry: Ebola's Impact on the Health Care Industry

MARSH offers an overview of Six Types of Insurance Coverage That May Apply to Ebola, with workers' comp at the top of the list.

Dr. Steven N. Weisbart, CLU discusses the insurance industry ramifications of the spread of the Ebola virus, from life/health implications to property/casualty in Insurance Information Institute: Facts and Perspectives on the Ebola Pandemic .

Logan Payne of Lockton has issued a whitepaper, Ebola Outbreak: Risk Management and Insurance Considerations. He looks at the real impact on companies with operations in the affected areas: "...oil and gas operators, mining companies, and humanitarian aid organizations as well as those who rely on the raw materials or commodities in the area. The outbreak of Ebola has caused curfews to be enforced in countries like Liberia as well as voluntary evacuation of employees by many companies, causing work sites and retail locations to completely cease operation. Global supply chains have been disrupted as ports and borders are partially or completely closed, and companies across Western Africa have closed their doors. In general, many companies have seen an abrupt halt in productivity coupled with a rise in prices for many critical services in countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea."

Melissa Hillebrand of PropertyCasualty360 offers a list of what you may not know ib 30 Ebola facts that will make you cringe, plus 7 ways to manage the risk. She covers how how the Ebola virus impacts economies and supply chains, insurance issues including evacuation, exposures and policy exclusions, and what you and your companies can do to prevent and control Ebola risk.

Arthur D. Postal of Property Casualty 360 looks at what Ebola will mean for the P&C industry over the long term.

At Business Insurance, Douglas McLeod says that Ace excludes Ebola claims for some new and renewal general liability policies. Sarah Vesey discusses new insurance coverage options related to Ebola: Brokers launch business interruption cover for Ebola, other pandemics

Related: Ebola: Insurance's new way to deal with an outbreak and Businesses wrestle with insurance in Ebola's wake

Joe Palazzola of the Wall St Journal Lawblog explains why Ebola suits against Texas Hospital likely wouldn't be easy to win.

Thomas Benjamin Huggett of Littler looks at The Ebola Exposure: U.S. Workplace Considerations

Michael Oliver Eckard and Jean Kim of Ogletree Deakins discuss Emerging Concerns for Healthcare Facilities and Employers

General Information on Ebola

CDC: Ebola
Facts, FAQs, signs & symptoms, transmission, prevention, treatment, clinical guidance, updates & more

WHO: Ebola Virus Disease

Here's how you can (and can't) get Ebola

15 charts, maps, and photos that explain the Ebola outbreak

Worker Health & Safety

National Institutes on Health: Ebola Virus Disease: Information for U.S. Healthcare Workers

NYCOSH: Essential Information for Aircraft Cabin Cleaners and Cargo Handlers

NIH: Guidance for Safe Handling of Human Remains of Ebola Patients in U. S. Hospitals and Mortuaries

CDC: Health care workers: Could it be Ebola?

CDC: Detailed Hospital Checklist for Ebola Preparedness

MA Nursing Association- Ebola: Screening and Managing a Patient While Protecting Yourself

OSHA: Ebola

WHO: Ebola Virus Disease: Occupational Safety and Health - joint WHO/ILO briefing note for workers and employers

NYCOSH: Essential Information for Workers

Ebola Medical Waste Management

Travel health notices

Infectious Diseases Related To Travel

In closing, Josh Cable of EHS Today reminds us that risk is relative. He offers a gallery of Safety and Health Threats that Are Deadlier than Ebola

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