News Roundup – WV, OH, WTC, hurricanes, and the billion dollar derriere

June 5th, 2006 by Julie Ferguson

West Virginia – Employers will be facing some confusion – and likely some change in rates – as BrickStreet Mutual Insurance, the entity that has replaced the prior state fund, switches over to the NCCI system of employee classification and rating. Under the prior state system, there were only 94 employee classifications, and under the new system there will be more than 470. Employee classifications all have different rates based on the risk of the work performed.
WTC Workers – Another sad story about the difficulty that Ground Zero clean-up workers are facing in securing workers compensation benefits. Many disabilities are surfacing now, but the statute of limitations was only for two years following 9/11. Mayor Bloomberg recently interceded to get benefits for a former deputy mayor who is suffering from debilitating respiratory illness.
Health care – Joe Paduda at Managed Care Matters tells us to expect national health care within about five years.
New blog – Check out our newest addition to the blogroll – InsureBlog, written by H.G. Stern, LUTCF and Bob Vineyard, CLU. It’s new to our blogroll, but not new to the Web – it’s been up for 18 months. They are launching a new blog carnival called “Cavalcade of Risk” – we’ll keep you posted.
Ohio Coingate – More developments late last week – Terrance Gasper, the former CFO of the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, is now facing federal and state racketeering charges for violating RICO by accepting bribes and laundering money. Thomas Noe gave Gasper $25,000 in exchange for Gasper’s funneling BWC investments to Noe’s rare coin company. Apparently, Gasper’s interest in investing public funds didn’t stop at the state border – he has also been named in an influence-peddling scheme associated with the New Hampshire Retirement System, activity that occurred after leaving the BWC. You might think he would have been treading a bit more carefully after the Ohio experience began making waves, but apparently not. If the New Hampshire allegations prove true, then perhaps Mr. Gasper should be nominated to this illustrious organization.
Meanwhile, things are heating up considerably for Thomas Noe. In addition to facing both federal and state charges for stealing millions in BWC monies, he is now facing serious violations of campaign finance law by using 24 friends and associates as conduits to illegally funnel more than $45,000 to the Bush presidential campaign. Both Noe and his wife Bernadette are former Lucas County Republican Party Chairs and Bernadette Noe was Chair of the Board of Lucas County Elections. The vote tally for Lucas County was hotly disputed in the last election – it’s not particularly reassuring to know we had this dubious crew minding the store, heh?
Ohio’s Coingate is a topic we have covered several times and will no doubt discuss again. Part of the shame in this whole sorry mess is the burden and stress that this puts on all the diligent workers who are innocent of any wrong doing. The Ohio BWC had a solid reputation and embarked on many progressive initiatives prior to this scandal. It must be difficult for all the good workers to see their place of employment subject to such unflattering and harsh public scrutiny. As the Enron workers learned, when the so-called leaders fail to lead, it’s often the workers who pay the steepest price.
Misc. Insurance news
The billion dollar derriere. Thanks to RiskProf for pointing us to an fascinating article in Slate on specialty insurance for celebrity body parts. Ah, the scintillating world of insurance!
Catastrophic events. Hurricane season is here, and Specialty Insurance Blog covers an recently released AM Best Hurricane Study – if there were a $100 billion plus catastrophic event, 20 to 50 insurers would be vulnerable to failure.