Health Wonk Review and other noteworthy news briefs

September 16th, 2010 by Julie Ferguson

Louise Norris of Colorado Health Insurance Insider hosts the Politics, Money and Health edition of Health Wonk Review. There’s a particularly good crop of posts and Louise does a great job offering summaries, so be sure to check it out!
Follow up to tower safety – In posting yesterday’s dramatic tower-climbing video, we appealed to any safety to experts to add comments. We were fortunate to have commentary from Wally Reardon who points us to the Facebook Tower Climber Protection project. Of the video, he notes: “If free-climbing is allowed by OSHA; why is the other climbers face blurred? He would not want to be identified or have his company ID’d either (that’s why). OSHA does not allow free-climbing EVER on towers. Special PPE has been designed to eliminate the need to free-climb. We have double lanyards with fall arrest to “crab walk” up the tower for example. Free-climbing has been banned since 1994.”
Facebook as a fraud detector – New York’s State Insurance Department brought workers comp fraud charges against a woman based a Facebook posting. The woman was boasting about her salary at a job while collecting benefits from an injury that occurred at a previous employer. Attorney Jon Gelman’s blog has a good post on how how Facebook is turning up in workers compensation courts.
Industry innovators – Congratulations to all those named as winners in Risk & Insurance’s 2010 Innovator Awards, with special kudos to our friend Gary Anderberg, Practice Leaders for Analytics and Outcomes at
Broadspire Services. (Read a few of his guest posts here at Workers Comp Insider). For a dose of inspiration and to find out where the industry leaders are headed, check out all the innovator profiles.
Employer WC costs decrease – a report by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) points to good news/bad news for employers. The good news: “Employer costs–defined as benefits paid and administrative costs for self-insured employers, and premiums and deductibles paid for those who buy insurance–fell 6.7 percent in 2008 to $78.9 billion.” But don’t get too excited because the bad news is that medical payments and cash benefits to injured workers saw the largest percentage increase since 2001: “workers’ compensation benefits paid increased 4.4 percent to $57.6 billion in 2008–the most recent year for which data was available. NASI said an 8.8 percent increase in payments for medical care drove medical spending to $29.1 billion in 2008, while wage replacement benefits paid directly to injured workers rose by 0.3 percent to $28.6 billion.”
Retaliation is a no-no – It’s never a good idea to harass a worker who has been injured on the job. Amtrak learned that the hard way after being ordered to pay a Seattle cleaning worker more than $160,000 after it was determined that supervisors had retaliated against her after she reported an on-the-job injury. She was discouraged from filing a report, and then fired, and then her firing was rescinded and reduced to a suspension.
When animals attack – It seems like there has been an increase in workers being attacked by wild animals lately, but it is probably just that these stories are more widely available due to the web. Here’s a scary clip of a lion attacking his trainer at MGM Las Vegas. Apparently, the worker needed stitches, but wildlife experts say if the lion had been serious, things could have been dire. Meanwhile, in an attack that ended less benignly, an exclusive remedy challenge is looming for SeaWorld Orlando related to the trainer who was killed by a whale. (Hat to tip Comp Time, where we found the lion clip.)