Health Wonk Review is posted; plus, weekly news roundup

April 3rd, 2008 by Julie Ferguson

An excellent new edition of Health Wonk Review is awaiting your perusal at The Health Care Blog. The post is authored by Brian Klepper, a nationally recognized health care analyst and consultant and a roving blogger who regularly posts at Matthew Holt’s The Health Care Blog, Patricia Salber MD’s The Doctor Weighs In (where he is the sole non-physician contributor), and Robert Laszewski’s Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review. One of his recent posts, What Worksite and Retail Clinics Mean for the Primary Care Crisis is well worth a read for his discussion of this trend, and the exchange this has prompted between Brian and Maggie Mahar.
Wal-Mart relents – There’s been an interesting development in a story discussed by my colleague Jon Coppelman last November. He awarded Wal-Mart a turkey in his post about subrogation and the case of Deborah Shank, a Wal-Mart employee who suffered permanent brain damage after her van was hit by a truck. Wal-Mart’s health care plan paid her medical expenses, but when the Shanks sued and won damages against the trucking firm, Wal-Mart stepped in via subrogation rights to scoop up the settlement. Subrogation is not uncommon in the insurance world, but the harshness of this particular case (coupled with the fact that the Shank family also lost a son in Iraq around the same time) prompted a public outcry and national media attention. In an extraordinary response to this outpouring of condemnation, Wal-mart has backed off from its reimbursement claims, noting that in the future, company policies on subrogation will be reviewed on a case by case basis.
Good adviceTen Insurance Tips For Corporate Counsel, Risk Managers And Executives – Mark Grabowski notes that, “Insurance policies often are acquired and then put in a drawer. But there are important steps that policyholders should take to help maximize the value of their insurance coverage.”
High cost of alcohol problems – Researchers at The George Washington University Medical Center has recently issued a report on prevalence of alcohol problems by industry segment and what employers can do about it (PDF). While the national average for employees with alcohol-related problems is about 9 percent, the hospitality industry tops 17% and construction and mining is more than 15%. (See chart). The Report is issued by Ensuring Solutions, a part of the Medical Center which provides research-based information on effective alcohol treatment and the barriers many people face when they seek help for a drinking problem. The website is a handy link with much useful information, including an alcohol cost calculator that allows you to estimate the cost to your industry. Nationally, alcohol costs American employers an estimated $134 billion in productivity losses, mostly due to missed work.
OSHA and penalties for work fatalities – The Senate HELP Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety recently held a hearing on serious OSHA violations, and as part of the hearing, OSHA’s frequent practice of reducing penalties in workplace-related fatalities was discussed. Former OSHA Assistant Secretary Jerry Scannell, commenting on the pressure he felt to reduce monetary penalties, posed the question, “What are we, a discount house?” Read more at Celeste Monforton’s post in The Pump Handle.
Advance notice – We’ll be posting more about this in the future, but just an alert that April 28 is scheduled as Workers’ Memorial Day, a day dedicated to those who died on the job and also to bring awareness to the need for worker safety.