Archive for April, 2013

April 28 is Workers Memorial Day

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Each year, April 28 is designated as Workers Memorial Day. OSHA says that, “It is a day to honor those workers who have died on the job, to acknowledge the grievous suffering experienced by families and communities, and to recommit ourselves to the fight for safe and healthful workplaces for all workers.”
Here are some planning resources for marking the event.
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health provides links to Workers Memorial Day Events, as well as a Workers Memorial Day Fact Sheet (PDF) and other resources.
AFL-CIO Workers Memorial Day has resources at their site, including a toolkit (PDF) to prepare for the event and a Collection of Worker Memorials.
USMWF Worker Memorial Day also has a list of planned events and a touching slide show tribute to workers who were killed on the job.
See 2012 Reports:
Death on the Job – AFL-CIO
Dying for Work in Massachusetts: The Loss of Life and Limb in Massachusetts Workplaces
California Dying at Work Report
North Carolina Workers Dying for a Job

Health Wonkery Calls

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Hank Stern at InsureBlog has posted the latest edition of Health Wonk Review, Money Tree Edition. If you have no interest in American health care, you can skip it. But given that health care impacts literally everyone on the planet, this timely compendium is worth a few moments of your valuable time.

Massachusetts: Governor Adding Insult to Injury?

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

We have long touted Massachusetts as the gold standard for workers compensation reform. In 1990 the state operated the second or third highest cost comp system in the nation; today MA is ranked 44th, with rates less than half of those in the other New England states. At the same time, the benefit structure is relatively generous, with a maximum indemnity wage of $1,150. The “taxachusetts” label applies to many aspects of living in the Bay State, but the cost of workers comp insurance is certainly not one of them.
But as is so often the case, failure lurks at the edge of success. The Insider has written extensively about the rate suppression that is opening like a sink hole below the market. The comp rates are so low, even good risks become questionable, simply due to the law of averages. Any company in MA with a .80 mod is by definition a marginal risk, because there is not enough premium to cover the exposure.
Generous to a Point
While benefits for injured workers are for the most part generous, there is one aspect of comp where state benefits fall short of what is needed and what is available in most states: injured workers only receive 60 percent of their average weekly wage, compared to the 66 2/3 percent or higher offered in other states. The 60 percent figure emerged in negotiations during the monumental reforms of 1990; even then it seemed harsh to extract savings from the pockets of those least able to afford it.
Now, in a desperate effort to increase revenues, Governor Deval Patrick is proposing that workers comp indemnity benefits be taxed. As a result, the already reduced 60 percent would be reduced another 4-6%, depending upon the final income tax rate in the new budget. Such taxation would violate the spirit of workers comp and exacerbate the stress of being injured and out of work. One of the unintended consequences of such a tax would be to push injured workers into the hands of attorneys, who thrive on friction and live off the most inefficient and expensive part of comp, cash settlements.
A Matter of Fairness
There are many factors contributing to the MA success story: a stingy fee schedule that doctors abhor, reduced reliance on settlements, which antagonizes claimant attorneys, a speedier dispute resolution process, and a reduction in indemnity benefits for workers.
In the Bay State, injured workers have already paid a price for the lower costs of workers comp. It would be unfair to ask these workers to make even greater sacrifices, when workers in other states receive higher benefits with no taxation. No matter what the rationale for taxing indemnity benefits may be – supporting education, fixing infrastructure – the measly $8 million raised by such a tax would be insignificant when compared to the cost to those least able to absorb it. It’s hard enough suffering through the pain of injury and recovery without adding insult to injury by further reducing already reduced income. This is a very bad idea and it should be tossed from the budget immediately.

When safety was subversive

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

In 1980, OSHA produced a film about its origins, talking about the rights of workers to a safe workplace. A few year’s later, Thorne Auchter, head of OSHA under Ronald Reagan, recalled and destroyed copies of the film. He also banned it, but a few union officials kept hidden copies. The penalty for being discovered in possession of one of these films was losing all OSHA funding for their safety and health programs. Other documents and films depicting workers who suffered the effects of lax safety were also banned as being “too inflammatory.”
Jordan Barab talked about Auchter’s safety censorship and OSHA funding cuts, as well as the later turn of events – both tragic and ironic – when Auchter’s own 22-year-old son, Kevin Campbell Auchter, was killed on the job during the demolition of two silos at the Monterey Coal Co. in Missouri.
Watch the film that OSHA banned.

This film was preserved through the years through the efforts of Mark Catlin, who made this and other censored OSHA films available for digitizing. See more videos at Mark Catlin’s excellent Historic Workplace & Environmental Health and Safety Films channel on YouTube.

Cavalcade of Risk; Events in Boston

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Jason Shafrin has posted Cavalcade of Risk #181: The ‘What If’ Edition at Healthcare Economist. In addition to a good roundup of risk-related posts, he talks about events at the Boston Marathon from a risk perspective.
Security expert Bruce Schneier puts the risk in perspective, too: The Boston Marathon Bombing: Keep Calm and Carry On
Boston’s our neighbor so it has been quite the week here. Although, really, the world is Boston’s neighbor this week. You know things are really tough when the New York Yankees pay tribute to their arch-enemy.
Many people want to do something for victims but officials warn: Be on alert for the inevitable Charity scams. Courtesy of the Consumer Insurance Blog, we’re issuing some legitimate ways that people can help the folks in Boston:
The One Fund – Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino have announced the formation of The One Fund Boston, Inc. to help the people most affected by the tragic events that occurred in Boston on April 15, 2013.
American Red Cross – You can always donate funds or blood to the American Red Cross – but you may want to wait a few weeks. Right now, the Red Cross says it has sufficient funds and blood supply to deal with events in Boston, but the need for blood is constant. People often rush to donate to a specific tragedy but donating on a regular basis can be more helpful.
Boston Children’s Hospital continues to aid in the recovery following the explosions. You can support the hospital’s efforts with a donation to the Marathon Program, which supports the hospital’s areas of greatest need, or the Emergency and Trauma fund, which helps kids and families get the emergency treatment they need when tragedy strikes.
Another donation resource that might be of interest: Children’s Hospital Boston’s Amazon wishlist
Here are some other items of note related to Boston marathon events.
First, a hat tip to the courage and professionalism of the workers: Mayors Menino, Giuliani Praise ‘Brave’ First Responders in Boston Bombing. Also, the volunteers: Marathon medical tent ‘transformed into trauma unit’, and the random citizen heroes. Without these folks, things might have been much, much worse.
Insurers offering free counseling after Boston Marathon explosions. It’s also a good time to point employees to an EAP service. Here’s a helpful resource: Managing traumatic stress: Coping with terrorism. And this: Harvard EdCast: Discussing Tragedy with Children.
Identifying Who Survives Disasters — And Why
Roundup of related stories from insurance publications
Business Insurance:
Boston bombing presents big unknown for insurers
Risk Management Monitor:
For Boston
Property Casualty 360:
A Human Race
Boston Terror Attack ‘Bound to Have Impact’ on Event Cancellation Coverage
Insurance Journal:
Insurance for Sporting Events Could Be Affected by Marathon Bombings: RMS Expert
Boston Bombing Investigators Gather Evidence: Backpack, Pressure Cooker, Ball Bearings

Health Wonkery and a big Friday roundup of other news notes

Friday, April 12th, 2013

questions-healthcare-reformLouise Norris posts an excellent edition of health wonkery this week at Colorado Health Insurance Insider: Health Wonks Tackle New Questions in Healthcare Reform. She notes that the range of topics is far-reaching, but that most are at least loosely associated with some aspect of health care reform. She offers a graphic summary, which we’ve taken the liberty of reproducing here – but click through to access the posts.

Quick news notes
Grab a coffee and pull up a chair – here’s a pretty hefty link list to other news items we found noteworthy this week:

Annals of Compensability: A Tick in Time

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Ben Ciccone Inc. is a construction company that confronts formidable risks every working day. They are involved in excavation, site development, bridge construction and, if that isn’t risky enough for you, blasting and demolition. Most underwriters would give them a quick pass. So it is ironic that they are dealing with a permanent total disability claim involving a tiny, barely visible tick.
Worrell Bailey was doing some work in the woods back in July 2008 when he was bitten by a deer tick. He contracted Lyme Disease. When he began to suffer from upper body muscle weakness, he quit his job. He filed for workers comp benefits, which were granted. He underwent several courses of antibiotics, but he did not get better.
By June of 2009 his condition had worsened to the point where a judge deemed him permanently and totally disabled. Ben Cicconne appealed, alleging that there was no definitive link between Bailey’s progressive deterioration and Lyme disease. The carrier presented the opinions of several neurologists, who could not state “with certainty” that Bailey’s Lyme disease was the cause of his motor neuron disease. In other words, Lyme disease might be the cause of Bailey’s disability and then again, it might not.
Dueling Doctors
Bailey’s doctors were convinced of a causal relationship. His treating physician stated that by March 2009, Bailey suffered from significant muscle atrophy that rendered him totally disabled, which the doctor attributed to Lyme disease. Samuel Koszer, a board-certified neurologist, testified that Bailey’s progressive muscle weakness and consequent total disability were causally related to Lyme disease. Finally, Bailey’s psychiatrist – treating him for anxiety and stress relating to his diagnosis – testified that the lyme disease had prompted an autoimmune reaction that resembled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The psychiatrist went on to criticize the comp carrier for denying benefits, which interrupted the course of treatments and may even have made the situation worse. These strong, unambiguous opinions were, in the language of claims adjusting, not very helpful to the defense.
The award of permanent total benefits was upheld by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Third Department. Thus Ben Ciccone Inc, a high risk operation by any definition, finds itself responsible for a very expensive claim involving the kind of risk we all face when we go for a walk in the woods. Luckily for Ciccone, they appeared to carry conventional insurance, so the impact of the claim on their costs through experience rating has already run its course. For the carrier and its underwriters, however, this little tick will go on ticking for a long, long time.

Why isn’t there a workers’ comp app for that?

Monday, April 8th, 2013

In his recent column A Workers’ Comp App Store? in Risk & Insurance, our friend Peter Rousmaniere poses the question, “When will mobile devices be used to improve work safety and injury response?” He notes that Personal Lines insurers are taking the lead and cites a few examples. He goes on to offer thoughts and ideas for a workers’ comp mobile initiatives for this “ripe communication channel.”
It’s been about a year since we took the pulse of the workers comp mobile app scene here on Workers’ Comp Insider: Last April, we posted 72 apps for your workers comp, risk management & HR toolbox, and shortly before that, a roundup of risk-related and occupational gizmos & gadgets. (As with all older posts, some links may no longer work, but most appear valid.)
In doing a Google search, we found an excellent post by Michael Allen who apparently has already done some of the heavy lifting for us: Mobile health – 40 “apps” for your workers’ comp team. He lists a variety of apps ranging from workers’ comp medical guidelines, claims-related, medication management, physical therapy, patient education, and Health, Wellness and Comorbidity management apps. (By the way, we’ll be adding his great blog to our sidebar: Tech Talk for Workers’ Comp)
Besides the listings, he offers insight into how many CIOs are building app stores from which employees can download vetted apps. He links to a piece by Clint Boulton in the WSJ about the rise of corporate app stores. Boulton says such stores, “…ensure applications used by employees, particularly those that are using their own devices, meet the company’s security standards.”
So Peter is right on the money (as usual) with his “Workers” Comp App Store” reference.
A further Google search for “OSHA apps” turned up this listing of safety apps using the keyword OSHA; Another search for ADA apps brought these results. A little digging in the “about us” section of Canvas, the site hosting these listings, says that “Canvas makes it easy to publish data collection apps on wireless Smartphones and other mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, bar code scanning devices, and Netbooks.” Among other benefits and services, it also boasts, “Canvas also offers the first mobile business application store of its kind allowing business users to find mobile applications that work on a wide variety of mobile devices, with every application being customizable by Canvas users.”
So if you want to compile a list of trustworthy insurance, business, or workers comp apps for your workforce, this might be a good tool to work with.
Meanwhile, here’s a grab bag of a few workers’ comp or risk related apps we’ve bookmarked for just such a post as this:

Many of the apps we see are ghost towns – few reviews, little traction. Still, we applaud the pioneers for forging the way because in our experience, insurance as an industry is infamous for leading from behind when it comes to adaptation to new technologies.

News Roundup: Risk, Rx, Ergonomics & More

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Biweekly Risk RoundupCavalcade of Risk #180 is now posted by Michael Stack at the AMAXX blog – check it out.
Dispensing DocsNew study casts doubt on benefits of physician-dispensed meds – According to the findings of a recent research study conducted by the California Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, even after controls to curb price differentials, the practice costs more and is associated with more days away from work. Quoting from a report of the study in Risk and Insurance:

Part of the controversy around physician dispensing of repackaged drugs concerns the price. Prior to reforms in 2007, reimbursement for repackaged drugs “often exceeded the amount paid for equivalent pharmacy-based prescriptions by 500 percent or more,” noted the authors.

The reforms adopted by the California Division of Workers’ Compensation to the pharmacy fee schedule “largely eliminated the differential pricing,” the authors said. “The effect was immediate, as both the volume of physician-dispensed repackaged drugs and the amounts paid for these medications declined by more than 90 percent by 2011.”

Despite the change, overall amounts paid and days away from work increased after the reforms.

Rx Summit – Joe Paduda is posting reports on the second annual national Rx drug abuse summit at Managed Care Matters. Although attendance numbers are good, he notes that actuaries and C-suite execs are conspicuous for their absence. Joe says, “That is precisely why opioids are the single biggest problem in workers comp.”
Prevention Tips from a Pro – In Top 10 loss control tips for 2013, Dennis Truitt, a 20-year occupational safety veteran, reveals his list of the most important steps companies can take to mitigate risk and control loss.
Dark Ages – What did people do before Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – how did people communicate? Take a look: Vintage social networking.
Fee SchedulesSuccesses and Failures of Fee Schedules: How Medical Providers Circumvent Fee Schedule-Related Revenue Losses – John Stahl reports on a panel presentation at the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute’s recent annual conference. He discusses the session of “Unnecessarily High/Low Medical Prices and Fee Schedules”in some depth.
Ergonomics, A to Z – Mark Middlesworth of Ergonomics Plus has compiled an excellent Ultimate Guide to Workplace Ergonomics. His extensive list of resources covers everything from ergonomic assessments, training, and design to success stories. Its worth bookmarking!
Early Reporting – Jennifer Frederick offers five good reasons why reporting workers compensation claims ASAP should be your standard operating procedure.
Career Options – Looking for a career path with a good future? A new NIOSH report says that the future demand for occupational safety and health services will significantly outstrip the supply. “Although employers plan to hire at least 25, 000 occupational safety and health professionals over the next five years, only about 12,000 new graduates are expected to be available from the academic programs that provide the needed pool of expertise nationally. Hiring estimates include new or replacement positions, some of which may be filled by persons without occupational safety and health training.”
More Noteworthy News