Health Wonk Review and news roundup

March 20th, 2008 by Julie Ferguson

Fresh wonkery – A fresh new edition of Health Wonk Review – the “fearless leader” edition – is hot of the presses at Joe Paduda’s blog, Managed Care Matters. As the original mastermind behind HWR, Joe has more than earned that nickname. This week’s edition focuses on reform – a continuing theme this year – as well as pharma & technology, electronic records, and a few items listed as “not categorizable.” HWR continues to be a worthwhile gathering of some of the smartest minds in the health care policy arena.
Other news
Combustible dust – Often, the most passionate worker safety advocates came to their role unwillingly. Tammy Miser offers compelling personal testimony at the Combustible Dust Hearing before the House of Representatives, Education and Labor Committee. View a short film in which she discusses the death of her brother Shawn Boone, who was killed in an October 2003 explosion at the Hayes Lemmerz manufacturing plant in Huntington, Ind. You can read more about her experience and the accident that caused her brother’s death at a post at the AFLCIO bog, including a link to a report from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, which said this of the explosion and fire:

“This accident followed a classic syndrome we call ‘normalization of deviation,’ in which organizations come to accept as ‘normal’ fires, leaks or so-called small explosions. The company failed to investigate the smaller fires as abnormal situations needing correction or as warnings of potentially larger more destructive events. The CSB almost always finds that this behavior precedes a tragedy.”

Slip and fall research – An article in Occupational Hazards notes that when it comes to falls, most attention is devoted to falls from heights, yet same-level falls are common, cause injuries, and can even result in fatalities. Safety researchers from Liberty Mutual have been conducting studies on same-level falls and looking at a variety of contributing factors, including flooring choices, conditions of walking surfaces, foot protection and employee perceptions of slip hazards.
WC and the price of gas – With gas prices skyrocketing, we are noticing a few news items about mileage reimbursement for claimants. Atty. Nick Avgerinos notes in his blog that in the early years of his practice, Illinois workers’ compensation law clients never made inquires concerning reimbursement for mileage to and from their own doctor or physical therapist, but now with the price of a gallon of gas approaching $4, the question is cropping up frequently. We also noticed that Connecticut recently announced a schedule of mileage reimbursement rate increases for workers comp claimants.
Not so exclusive a remedy – Except in unusual cases, workers comp protects employers from being sued for injuries that occur at work. But apparently a “homemade” version of workers comp carries no such protection. Business Insurance reports on the case of Carl Smith who crushed his hand at work. His employer, Desautels House Movers Inc., did not have workers comp insurance and paid for benefits out of pocket. But because such an arrangement has no “exclusive remedy” provisions and the employer did not have Smith sign a waiver, Vermont’s Supreme Court ruled that Smith can proceed with a negligence suit.
Drug testing – The talk on some employment law blogs this week is a court ruling late last week that put limits on the rights of a public employer to require pre-employment drug testing. The San Francisco Chronicle has the story, and then go visit Workplace Prof Blog for some thoughts on the matter.
Veterans – On the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, Liz Borkowski at The Pump Handle has a roundup of news stories about veterans and the disabilities and issues they are facing when they return home.