Archive for November, 2014

Freshly posted at HealthBlawg – Health Wonk Review: The Turkey Edition

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Check out a freshly posted Health Wonk Review: The Turkey Edition at HealthBlawg. David Harlow hosts and it is chock full of good content and some fun seasonal links to boot – mosey on over to take a gander, pilgrim!

Ex Massey CEO Don Blankenship Indicted Over UBB Mining Disaster

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Keeping two sets of books has come to be the cliche for fraud and deceit. You expect it to be confined to the realm of cartoon villains, but it was one of many damning indicators reported to inspectors during a more than four-year investigation into circumstances surrounding the mining disaster that claimed 29 lives at the Massey-owned Upper Big Branch Mine. One book especially for the inspectors, one book for operations.

Yesterday was the day that many of the surviving family members thought would never come. Longtime Massey CEO Don Blankenship was indicted on four criminal counts: three felonies and one misdemeanor, which carry a maximum combined penalty of 31 years imprisonment.

“A federal grand jury in Charleston charged Blankenship with conspiring to cause willful violations of ventilation requirements and coal-dust control rules — meant to prevent deadly mine blasts –during a 15-month period prior to the worst coal-mining disaster in a generation.

The four-count indictment, filed in U.S. District Court, also alleges that Blankenship led a conspiracy to cover up mine safety violations and hinder federal enforcement efforts by providing advance warning of government inspections.”

The the 43-page indictment outlines a long list of sins: repeated and serious violations of safety laws; actions designed to impede and deceive regulators and inspectors; and coverups and deception during the disaster investigation. It also includes charges of deception to the SEC and “…materially false statements and representations, and materially misleading omissions, made in connection with the purchase and sale of Massey stock.”

Ken Ward, Jr. has been covering this in great detail both in the Charleston Gazette and on his Coal Tattoo blog. See his Blankenship indicted post – he links to a timeline of events, reactions of family members, a summary of convictions so far.

Other media coverage

Prior related posts

Cavalcade of Risk & Other Notable News

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Cavalcade Of Risk #221,: Birds of a Feather – Claire Wilkinson of Terms + Conditions hosts this weeks’ biweekly roundup, and it’s a good one!
First up: Peril, and Daring, at 1 World Trade Center as Window Washers Are Trapped – Dramatic photos and reports of yesterday’s rescue via the New York Times. Today’s report: Workers Rescued From Dangling Scaffolding “Doing Well”, which includes footage of the rescues. Good job, first responders!
Wrangling With John Burton Over the Future of Workers’ Comp
A workers comp must-read. The International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) featured a “point-counterpoint” type presentation in its annual Peer Review Journal. This edition features John Burton, Professor Emeritus at Rutgers and Cornell, and presidentially appointed Chairman of the 1972 Federal Commission on Workmen’s Compensation and Robert “Bob’s Cluttered Desk” Wilson, workers comp internet entrepreneur/visionary and President and CEO of Burton’s article “Should There Be a 21st Century National Commission on Workers’ Compensation Laws?” suggests a direction for the future and Wilson’s article “The Case for Workers’ Recovery” suggests a philosophical change for the industry. Download and read the series of articles.
WorkCompWire: NCCI Publishes Workers Compensation Financial Results Update – NCCI’s State of the Line report indicated favorable industry results for 2013. Industrywide statutory data for 2013 indicates little difference between NCCI’s preliminary estimates and the final results for most of the major financial measures. For Calendar Year 2013, NCCI initially estimated workers compensation premium volume net of reinsurance to be $37.0 billion for private carriers. This compares to the actual data reported by the industry of $36.7 billion. NCCI estimated an industrywide workers compensation combined ratio of 101 for 2013; actual data reported by the industry indicates a combined ratio of 101.3. 9. (You can access and download the full report free: NCCI Workers Compensation Financial Results Update.
ARAWC: A New Force for Change
Chris Mandel is SVP, strategic solutions for Sedgwick. “This new national organization was formed by a coalition of employers and workers’ compensation system providers after many realized the benefits achieved in Texas and those anticipated in Oklahoma. The board and ARAWC’s members have an intense interest in seeing employees better cared for by a more optimally designed and managed system. By seeking options to traditional workers’ compensation, the organization has a goal of also driving economic development through the attraction of employer savings.”
Related: Roberto Ceniceros – National Employers Push for Comp Options
Court to rule on health care subsidies
SCOTUS Blog: “The Supreme Court, moving back into the abiding controversy over the Affordable Care Act, agreed early Friday afternoon to decide how far the federal government can extend its program of subsidies to buyers of health insurance. At issue is whether the program of tax credits applies only in the consumer marketplaces set up by sixteen states, and not at federally operated sites in thirty-four states.”
– Ezra Klein: The huge new threat to Obamacare, explained in 2 minutes
– Jonathan Cohn: Obamacare Returns to the Supreme Court
Republicans to Chip at Obamacare by Redefining Work Hours
Report: Healthcare premium increases ‘quite low’ in 2015
– Bob Laszewski: Is the Administration Low-Balling Their 2015 Obamacare Enrollment?
The American public is skeptical about workers’ comp
Julius Young of WorkersCompZone reviews the results of a Harris Interactive poll on attitudes to workers compensation. “Instead of celebrating the social bargain that created workers’ comp, too often the perception is that the system is out of control. And that stakeholders are only out to aggrandize their share of the pie. / Ultimately this has made it hard for injured worker advocates to gain much traction in the court of public opinion.”
NPR investigation: Injuries and violations continue at coal mines that owe millions in fines
Keb Ward, Coal Tattoo: “Our friends at NPR News and the Mine Safety and Health News — Howard Berkes and Ellen Smith — have just posted some remarkable new work from a year-long investigation of what happens when coal mine operators never have to actually pay the safety fines that are assessed for violations of federal standards.”

Who insures short-duration work-injury caused absences?

Terry Bogyo: “Without data, it is hard to estimate the number of work-related absence cases that are going uncompensated because of waiting periods. Without measurement, it is hard to see if this burden is shrinking or growing. Without a financial implication, the case for prevention may be less than it might otherwise be.”
‘Open’ in Texas Causes a Workers’ Compensation Roadblock
Joan E. Collier, wci360: “Well, here’s an interesting item from Texas. An investigative reporter with CBS Dallas/Ft. Worth radio station KRLD has uncovered what he says “may be a loophole that blocks anyone who has ever used workers’ compensation in Texas from getting Medicare claims paid.”
Workers comp controversy grows as more business owners complain of bills from the state (NY)
Jim Kenyon, “…Michael T. Berns, former Commissioner on the State Workers Comp Board, now runs a website critical of the way the Board operates. He blames the Board for allowing the self-insured trusts to run up multi-million dollar debts. “The State of New York allowed what I would call a Ponzi scheme to take place and therefore the State of New York should take the responsibility of making these people whole.” Berns said.”

Elite Doctor Network Targets Florida for Medical Tourism

“Inbound (to the US) medical tourism is a $5 billion industry with an estimated 1 million patients each year travelling to the United States to access some of the world’s best medical care. While much of that revenue has historically gone to major hospitals, new technologies – like Telehealth – have made it feasible for individual doctors in private practice to participate. HelloMD has an international strategy, with translation of its growing body of content into five languages, and strategic alliances in China and elsewhere.”
Brief Takes

Veterans Day 2014 – Hire a Vet

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Veterans Employment Toolkit
“…to help employers, managers and supervisors, human resource professionals, and employee assistance program (EAP) providers relate to and support their employees who are Veterans and members of the Reserve and National Guard.
In this toolkit, you can learn about Veterans and the military, such as what Veterans bring to the workplace and what the military structure and culture is like. You can also learn how to support employees who are Veterans or members of the Reserve or National Guard in the workplace, through reading about common challenges and how to help, reviewing communication tips, reading a report about Veterans in the workplace, or by downloading handouts to use with EAP clients. Finally, Veterans and their family members can find employment resources for Veterans.”
Veterans in the Workplace Project
Information for HR Practitioners – Statutes & Regulations
More employment resources for hiring vets
Veterans Crisis Line

High Voltage Cable Inspection

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Here’s a fascinating clip on high voltage cable inspection, which the poster says is “not a job for a hot duck.”

For more information on the clip, see the description under the video at YouTube. If you’re thinking of this as a possible career path, see The Salary of a High Voltage Cable Inspector. But be aware that robots may be encroaching on your career aspirations.

Health Wonk Review Fresh

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Waiting for your biweekly dose of health wonkery? Wait no more – Jennifer Salopek has a fresh post at Wing of Zock – Health Wonk Review: The Election Week Edition. Topics include the ACA, Ebola, MD kickbacks, venture capital healthcare investments & more – check it out.

Poultry processor Wayne Farms cited by OSHA

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

As we approach the holiday season and millions of Americans plan for poultry as a dining choice, OSHA has cited Wayne Farms for a variety of serious worker safety violations. While these types of citations constitute news that is generally only of interest in the health and safety circuit, they speak much more widely to general public health issues that should concern us all.
OSHA initiated its inspection of Wayne Farms after worker complaints about dangerous conditions in the company’s Jack, Alabama facility. According to the SPLC, which filed the complaint:

“The complaint, filed on behalf of nine current or former employees, describes how workers are subjected to dangerously fast work speeds that cause disabling injuries, prevented from getting medical treatment and even fired for reporting injuries or taking time off to see a doctor. It also outlines how workers are required to pay the company for some of their protective equipment. They are even denied reasonable access to the bathroom, according to the complaint.”

Celeste Monforton reports on the OSHA’s findings of serious and repeat violations for “prolonged repetitive, forceful tasks, often in awkward postures for extended periods of time” and gross deficiencies in the company’s lockout/tagout procedures, a violation that had previously been leveled at one of the company’s other processing plants.
The health and well-being of food processing workers is inextricably linked to important public health considerations. Injured, over-tired workers are not a good front-line defense against salmonella and other dangerous food contaminants. Last year, the USDA was considering a proposal to speed up bird processing from an already demanding 140 birds per minute to 175 – see our post USDA: What’s up with your “for the birds” food processing legislation? After a two year battle over the issues, the Agriculture Department finally dropped the proposal this past July. On the other hand, the USDA also privatized and decreased the number of food inspectors and failed to act on antibiotic-resistant salmonella, so it wasn’t all good news.
NIOSH Finds Alarming 42 % Rate of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) at South Carolina Poultry Processing Plant. (See the full report)
The human cost of bringing poultry to the table .
Reactions Vary to USDA’s Poultry Inspection Rule
Food & Water Watch Sues USDA Over New Poultry Inspection Rule