Midsummer Health Wonkery, trucking, homicides, bad faith, wearable tech & more

July 18th, 2013 by Julie Ferguson

Health Wonk Review – Louise and Jay Norris have posted the newest
Health Wonk Review: A Midsummer Wonk’s Dream at Colorado Health Insurance Insider . This is a double-plus good issue because HWR is only posted monthly during the summer so wonks have unleashed their best posts. Plus, Louise always does an excellent job summarizing and hosting. Catch up with your health policy issues now – next issue isn’t until mid-August.
Obamacare – As long as we’re delving into health policy, we point you to Joe Paduda’s excellent series on health care reform. He is more than midway through his postings on Obamacare and Workers’ Comp (Part 1). Here are links to updates in the series: overview; Part 2: the impact of increased group and Medicaid insurance coverage; Part 3: More implications of increased covered; Part 4: Cost shifting, and Part 5: IPAB and ACOs.
Trucking – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced new federal trucking regulations designed to reduce driver fatigue and improve safety for the motoring public. The rules, which took effect on July 1, 2013, retain the current 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day, but impose other restrictions: they limit the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease from the current maximum of 82 hours. If the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week is reached, drivers may resume if they rest for 34 consecutive hours. Rules also require drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.
Homicides – Taxicab drivers face one of the highest homicide rates of any occupation: 7.4 per 100,000 employed vs 0.37 for the general working population. New research from NIOSH examines the effectiveness of partitions and security cameras in reducing homicides among taxicab drivers. The study found a three times lower homicide rate in the cities where taxicabs use security cameras than the control cities and a seven times lower homicide rate when compared to the rates before installation of the cameras. There was no statistically significant difference in homicide rates for cities where the taxicabs used partitions compared with control cities.
Brave new world Does your organization have a “wearable tech” policy? Probably not, but you may need one in the not-too-distant future. HR expert Sharyn Lauby posts about What Google Glass Means for Workplace Policy. Google Glass is wearable computer that allows the wearer to take pictures, record video, get directions, send messages, share what they’re looking at and much more. There are many potential privacy-related issues – and for an employer, many workplace issues. If you aren’t up on the technology, see Google Glass: what you need to know. While Google says that these devices will be built to ethical standards so that you can tell when someone is recording, but hackers may have other ideas.
Obesity as a Disease and the ADA – Employment law attorney Eric B. Meyer says that despite the AMA’s recent declaration that obesity is a disease, the courts may not necessarily agree. He discusses a recent West Virginia Supreme Court ruling in a case involving a charge of disability discrimination for a termination. But Meyer cautions that despite the ruling, “employers should err on the side of caution and continue to provide reasonable accommodations to morbidly obese employees as well as those with other conditions that may arguably fall within the scope of the ADA.”
Guns & WC – In Lawyers, guns & money, Dave DePaolo takes a look at workers comp as it relates to shooting sports establishments. While gun demand is high and sales are skyrocketing, “the current boom in sales is being countered with a shortage in available workers’ compensation coverage.” He notes that the insurer reluctance seems to bear little relation to the industry’s loss experience, which is excellent.
Bad faithWorkers’ Comp & Bad Faith: Unacceptable Oversights – At PropertyCasualty360, Everette Lee Herndon offers an excellent overview on the issue of bad faith claims. While workers comp is the “exclusive remedy”, some states offer recourse in cases “When benefits are not properly (and promptly) rendered.” While not all states have “bad faith” provisions in the laws, those that do typically provide for penalties and fines while still retaining the exclusive remedy provision. Herndon draws lessons from the case of Romano v. Kroger/Sedgwick, invloving a claimant who had surgery for a shoulder and spine injury, and who subsequently contracted an MSRA infection and later died of conditions related to this infection.

“In May of this year, the state Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) referred Sedgwick CMS to the Division of Workers’ Compensation’s Audit Unit for “unreasonably delaying or denying treatment for a patient who was dying from an infection he contracted after undergoing surgery for a compensable work injury.

In the decision, Romano v. Kroger Co., the WCAB charged that Sedgwick demonstrated “blithe disregard for its legal and ethical obligations and a callous indifference to the catastrophic consequences of its delays, inaction and outright neglect.”

The WCAB upheld penalties imposed against Sedgwick CMS in the amount of the maximum penalty allowed by law–$10,000 for each of 11 instances of unreasonably delaying medical care.”

Herndon suggests that whether your state allows bad faith lawsuits or not, “the workers’ compensation claim should be handled in such a manner as to preclude any allegations of improper conduct.” He offers additional thoughts on how to avoid bad faith claims.
Low interest yields & P/C insurersStrained investment returns are translating into property and casualty rate increases. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners puts the net yield for insurance carrier invested assets at an all-time low of 3.68%.
Coal mining – At Coal Tattoo, Ken Ward notes that a key MSHA rule related to Black Lung has been delayed again. In another matter, he points to a report about the November 2012 CONSOL Energy coal-slurry impoundment that took the life of miner Markel Koon. He notes that the report raises “… some serious questions about how well one of the nation’s largest coal producers managed a particularly dangerous sort of operation.”
Other noteworthy news