Health Wonk Review and news roundup

February 7th, 2008 by Julie Ferguson

Health Wonk Review – David Williams of Health Business Blog is the host of this week’s edition of Health Wonk Review – he includes a wide variety of posts and his concise briefs on each entry make it an easy issue to skim through. From here to the election, content should be rich as health care policy positions and debates take center stage.
Defense legal costs: a reader query – One of our readers asked if we had any reports on average costs for employer or insurer legal defense. We turned up this study: Defense Legal Costs of Oregon Workers’ Compensation Insurers, 2006 (PDF). (For comparison, see Oregon’s 2003 report PDF) If any of our readers can point to other reports or studies on this topic, we’d appreciate it.
Mine safety – Lawmakers are asking questions about why thousands of mine safety violations were never assessed fines. Questions were raised after an investigation by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration showed that penalties had not been assessed for 4,000 citations issued by the agency between January 2000 and July 2006. And while on the topic of mining safety, documents have recently surfaced showing that owners of Crandall Canyon were aware of the mine’s structural problems before the disaster. This contradicts owner Robert Murray’s post-incident claim to press that, “It’s the first time I’ve heard of this” and insistence that there was no retreat mining in Crandall Canyon.
Lifting training doesn’t prevent injuries – A recent study reports that worker training in correct lifting practices doesn’t necessarily prevent back injuries. “The researchers say either advocated techniques do not actually reduce the risk of back injury, or workers do not significantly change their habits enough to make any difference. They conclude that a better understanding of the relationship between work-related back stress exposure and the subsequent development of back pain is needed in order to develop new, innovative ways to prevent back pain caused by lifting.”
OSHA poster scam – Jason Heilpern of Hazards Recognized alerts us to a phony OSHA poster scam. Some employers are getting mail, calls, and e-mail from scamsters warning them about the need to purchase compliance documentation. He points us to the right source for any posters, as well as contact information for reporting fraudulent solicitations.
New York rate setting change – Roberto Ceniceros of Business Insurance discusses the transition to a loss-cost system for determining New York’s workers compensation rates, a move that is expected to usher in greater competition in the state.
South Carolina medical standards – In September, Governor Mark Sanford issued an executive order requiring the state’s Workers’ Compensation Commission to use objective standards in an effort to control benefit awards which were reported to vary “wildly” averaging 81% higher than other states. The order has faced significant opposition and the dispute is expected to hit the courts this month.
Maryland domestic workers – Some lawmakers are calling for employment contracts for domestic workers who work 20+ hours to stem abuse and mistreatment. Many immigrants work long hours in some of the wealthiest homes in America without the benefit of basic employment protections, such as workers comp, health care, minimum wage, or overtime pay. While the proposed legislation does not seem feasible, it is likely a response to recent media coverage of domestic slavery and other reports of abuse of domestic workers.