News roundup: Health Wonk Review, OH, NY, fraud, BP and safety

August 23rd, 2007 by Julie Ferguson

Health Wonk Review – Daniel Goldberg is this week’s host of Health Wonk Review and he offers up an abundance of varied links with interesting context and commentary. And while visiting HWR, please be sure to check out Daniel’s excellent Medical Humanities Blog. In today’s posting, he offers a good introduction to the nature of medial humanities as a discipline and the role that medical humanists play in health care. His blog is well worth an extra look-see, encompassing a literature review, a medical humanities lexicon, and an information exchange on events and conferences, among other things. His sidebar links are extensive and also give a good window into the multi-disciplinary nature of medical humanities as a subject matter.
Ohio – One of our readers kindly sent us a link to an interview with the new Administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, Marsha Ryan, who says that the state’s $21 billion system is “pretty broken.” She also states that it may take years before public trust is restored, unsurprising in the wake of wide-ranging corruption in the Bureau that led to 16 convictions. She also indicated that she plans to review group discounts that have been offered to business alliances, such as the Ohio Chamber of Commerce or National Federation of Independent Business. According to a recent investigation, some companies were given discounted rates, a practice that raised questions about fairness but which turned up no illegalities.
California – In news of another state workers comp body that is seeking to restore trust and transparency, the State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF) has named Janet Frank as new president as of October. She will take the reins from interim president Lawrence E. Mulryan who was appointed after the prior president, James C. Tudor, and vp, Renee Koren, were fired. Sally Roberts of Business Insurance reports that there are a number of ongoing investigations to learn if misconduct or illegal activities occurred, particularly in relation to the payment of administrative fees in connection with SCIF’s group insurance programs.
More on fraud – On Tuesday, Tom Lynch blogged about a judge indicted for insurance fraud. One of our readers noted that the same issue of Insurance Journal also included another fraud item about four workers comp claimants in Texas sentenced for cheating the system. The four claimants collected a combined total of $17,346 for double-dipping, or collecting benefits while gainfully employed. Unlike the case of the judge, there was no suspension with pay for these folks: Penalties for the four included probations ranging from 1 to 5 years, community service requirements, and restitution. While fraud is certainly wrong and to be condemned under all circumstances, we agree with our reader that the juxtaposition of the two fraud cases and the disparity of the consequences present a study in irony. Presumably, the judge will have his day in court, and if the charges are proven, will have a steeper penalty imposed.
BP contests OSHA fines – According to Occupational Hazards, BP is contesting $92,000 in recent OSHA penalties for violation of safety rules related to process safety management and hazardous conditions at the Texas City refinery. This is the site of the March 2005 disaster in which 15 workers were killed and many others injured. For a recap of the investigations of that event, see Josh Cable’s excellent article, Anatomy of a Tragedy, a sad case study in safety and prevention gone awry. He notes, “Perhaps the real tragedy is that federal investigators believe that the accident – like so many other workplace accidents – was entirely avoidable.”
Health & safety resources
OSHA added a Health Care module to its Compliance Assistance Quick Start tool, which offers online free compliance assistance resources. The purpose of the module is ” …to help employers understand OSHA regulations applicable to the healthcare industry, including recordkeeping, reporting and posting requirements. It also contains information on developing a comprehensive safety and health program and on training employees.”
Dale Lindemer offers a practical overview of Scaffolding Good Practices in the August issue of Occupational Health & safety – a good resource on “dos and don’ts” to help prevent the most common hazards: falls from elevation; collapse/overturning of the scaffold;being struck by falling tools, work materials, or debris; and electrocution, principally due to proximity of the scaffold to overhead power lines.

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