News roundup: WTC, Rocky Flats, report from Chicago

November 12th, 2007 by Julie Ferguson

Disaster management and the WTC – Previously, we noted Peter Rousmaniere’s excellent in-depth series on the World Trade Center. The final two installments have been posted: Part 3: Peeling a Sour Apple, which deals with the ongoing efforts to pay for the lingering health effects of the cleanup, and Part 4: Out of the Ashes – Another Failure?, an assessment of reforms that need to be enacted for the future. If you haven’t seen the series yet, access complete coverage and related stories here.
Heckuva job, feds! – Nuclear weapons workers continue to die from cancer during the buck-passing and bureaucratic bungling that has held up intended compensation from legislation enacted in 2000 aimed at providing relief to Rocky Flats workers who were exposed to damaging levels of radiation. Laura Frank of Rocky Mountain News reports on the latest snafus that potentially left thousands of eligible workers off the lists.
Workers Comp and Disability Conference – Last week, I was at the National Workers Comp & Disability Conference & Expo in Chicago, an annual event hosted by LRP and the folks at Risk & Insurance. According to promoters, next year’s show will return to Las Vegas, and the venue will alternate between Chicago and Las Vegas in future years. The show was like a bloggers’ convention: besides yours truly, we saw Joe Paduda of Managed Care Matters, Richard Eskow of The Sentinel Effect, Peter Rousmaniere of Working Immigrants and Jennifer Christian of Work Fitness and Disability Roundtable. Also, our friends at were present and podcasting. You can find daily reports and news coverage of events at Risk and Insurance.
Years ago, exhibitors at these shows were predominantly insurers, third party administrators and ancillary claims management services, such as investigations and subrogation. But with the medical portion of the workers comp claim dollar approaching 60% of the total cost, the exhibit hall could easily be mistaken for a health care show. Exhibitors representing services aimed at controlling medical costs predominated – pharmacy benefit managers, case management services, and provider networks – both national and smaller regional organizations. There were also a number of exhibitors representing treatment facilities for catastrophic care and advanced medical technologies and devices. There were a number of companies offering job analysis services to assist in hiring, job placement, and return to work, and a number of vendors representing translation services.
One compelling session was a case history on managing prescription drugs presented by Joe Paduda and Francis Fey, CEO and president of JI Companies. Joe first gave an overview of his company’s 4th Annual Survey Report on Prescription Drug Management in Workers Compensation noting that prescription drugs account for about 14.5% of the workers comp medical expenses and that utilization continues to be the key cost driver. Francis Fey then presented a case history of partnering with Cypress Care to implement an aggressive pharmacy management program with a number of Texas employers in the public and private sectors. It included an authorization program that issued cards to all employees and aggressive clinical pharmacy review of high prescribers and red-flag drugs. An important component was the intensive doctor-to-doctor communication to try to change prescribing behaviors, such as changing from name brand to generic drugs and helping prescribers to see alternatives to the use of addictive and/or inappropriate pain medications. A strong emphasis was put on reviewing old claims with high prescription costs. The program yielded and 8 to 1 ROI, with annual savings ranging as high as $10,000 per claim.