Archive for December, 2014

Cavalcade of Risk: The Swan Song Edition

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Hank Stern of InsureBlog is hosting the Swan Song Edition of Cavalcade of Risk … please check it out, it’s a great holiday edition with an eclectic roundup of posts from some of our favorite bloggers.

It’s also the end of an era that launched back in 2006. For 224 biweekly editions of this risk roundup, Hank has been the leader, the inspiration, the organizer, the spam wrangler and the person who generally kept things chugging along. Managing these carnivals is a big job – one that he did expansively, graciously and with good humor! Kudos and many thanks to Hank, who has become a dear friend to us over the years!

LexisNexis: Furthering the Workers Comp Community

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

I am not a lawyer, thank you very much, but I am married to one. So, you may imagine that I am familiar with more than a few members of the breed. I’ve heard every lawyer joke there is (but if you want to send me a couple of your favorites, that would be OK).

In the mid-1980s, the early days of Lynch Ryan, I often heard my attorney friends saying they had to search “Lexis” for one thing or another. Since they were occasionally charging me for doing that, I wanted to know a bit about “that Lexis thing.” Over lunch one day I was educated about this remarkable innovation for the legal community, an innovation that was actually saving me money.

The whole thing began as a searchable database experiment of the Ohio State Bar in 1967. In 1970, the Mead Corporation’s Mead Data Central took it over and named it Lexis. In 1973, Mead made Lexis’s full text search available for all cases in Ohio and New York. In 1980, after a 7-year key punch effort (you read that right), Lexis went nationwide for all federal and state cases. That same year, Mead launched the Lexis sister, Nexis, which allowed journalists to search news stories related to law.

In 1994, Mead sold LexisNexis to Reed Elsevier for $1.5 billion. Not a bad return on investment from those Ohio State Bar days.

Starting in 2000, LexisNexis began to get into the risk solution business, primarily by acquisition: Riskwise in 2000 and ChoicePoint, a data aggregator, in 2008. By the time of the ChoicePoint buy, LexisNexis had become profoundly involved in risk, especially workers compensation. It became a leading publisher of workers compensation material, including Larson’s Workers Compensation Law.
The LexisNexis Senior Editor for all things workers compensation is Robin Kobayashi, a ridiculously smart and talented person (Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA — by contrast, the closest I ever got to Phi Beta Kappa was admiring Gary Anderberg’s pin).

Robin is the visionary who decided to recognize workers compensation bloggers, beginning in 2009. That year there was only one winner, and I’m proud to say we were it. However, beginning in 2010, Robin expanded the award to the top 25 blogs, realizing that there was a wealth of insightful Web commentary that cried out for recognition.

Recently, LexisNexis announced the top 25 workers compensation blogs for 2014, a most distinguished list, and we congratulate everyone on it. However, during this time of recognition, I thought it might be a good idea to shine the Workers Comp Insider arc light on the far-sighted professional who made this award possible, thus deepening and expanding the workers compensation community in a meaningful and long-lasting manner.

For her vision and dedication, we salute Robin Kobayashi.

Health Wonk Review Holiday edition

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Image source: Christmas gifs
We’re happy to host this year’s holiday edition of Health Wonk Review. Before we present the best of the recent health policy blogosphere, we wanted to offer a shout out to the hard working man of the season, Santa Claus. This year, we learn that “an industrial engineer managing a North Pole toy factory” would merit an annual salary of about $139,924. This is based on BLS data – you can see how arrived at that figure via the 2014 Santa Index. We think he probably also deserves a hazard pay factor based on this ergonomic risk assessment. The hazards are rife …think chimney obstructions, dog bites, exposure to children’s bodily fluids, fire hazards, elf mutinies, collisions with aircraft. There’s probably insurance to cover those risks but if Santa is looking for any coverage for terror-related events, he is out of luck since the Senate failed to renew Terrorism Insurance

Image source: Christmas gifs
OK, now on to our submissions from the Health Wonkers.
Dr. Roy Poses finds a “naughty, not nice” candidate in his post about the Hospital CEO as Scrooge at Health Care Renewal. He documents how the Erlanger Health System’s CEO and other top managers are getting bonuses after a recent freeze of employee retirment and vacation benefits. He notes that, “Most of health care, perhaps just reflecting the larger society, now seems to be run for the benefit of the insiders, usually managers/ administrators/ bureaucrats/ executives (MABEs ?) hardly the patients, or those who actually take care of them.”
Louise Norris of Colorado Health Insurance Insider finds a a glitch in Connect for Health Colorado’s catastrophic plans. While plan eligibility is supposed to encompass people age 18-29, the quote tool provides Catastrophic plan quotes for 30-year-olds. Oops.
Health Affairs Editor-in-Chief Alan Weil offers five reasons why he opposes payment reform at his Once in a Weil blog. In this first of a two part series, he lists the problems with current versions of payment reform. At the end of the piece, he reveals that he doesn’t really oppose payment reform — but that there are things we must do to make payment reform work — which he will tackle in part 2.
Joe Paduda offers another perspective on PPACA at Managed Care Matters. He notes that, “Overall, things are improving, rather dramatically – but not without pain.” He enumerates some of the good, the bad and the ugly.
At InsureBlog, Henry Stern looks at some of the moral dilemmas involved in genetic screening. For example, if you agree to participate in a genome study, who owns the data and results of your test? See his post It’s in the Genes
Neil Versel posts about how the hype around healthcare wearables is running into reality at his Forbes blog. He offers a reality check on the rah-rah attitude surrounding wearable monitoring devices put forth by some analysts, researchers and vendors. His post sparked a lively discussion on LinkedIn’s Digital Health group.
Many patients have gained insurance through the Medicaid expansion within the Affordable Care Act. However, have these patients been able to access adequate medical care? Jason Shafrin investigates in his post Insurance does not equal health care at Healthcare Economist.
Peggy Salvatore asks just who accountable care is accountable to in her post at Health System Ed. She says that ACOs have the potential to achieve their full potential when all the systems are in place to deliver both real-time patient data to treat the patient in front of you and retrospective data to decide if the methods to treat achieved their goals. Are we there yet? Check out the post for Peggy’s assessment.
David Williams of Health Business Blog offers a podcast interview with Evolent CEO Frank Williams on transforming healthcare. Williams aims to help provider systems succeed financially as they transform from volume-driven to value-driven payment models. He discusses ACOs, consolidation, and how Evolent makes money.
At, Harold Pollack posts about the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, in which he discusses reasons why states might reasonably worry about the ACA. In the final analysis, the President and the governors need to get along.
David Harlow hosts a seasonally related roundup, HealthCare SocialMedia Review No. 19 – Festivals of Lights Edition at HalthBlawg that’s worth checking out.
Here at Workers Comp Insider, we delve into our archives to present a closing Santa-related post. We opened with discussion of Santa’s pay — but no matter what he is paid, there are never any good reasons for shortchanging worker safety. Is he? Santa’s workshop: “OSHA problems galore” say whistleblowers
Have a happy and safe holiday. We have a brief holiday hiatus – the next issue of Health Wonk Review will be on January 15, hosted by Vince Kuraitis at e-Care Management Blog.
Image source: Christmas gifs

A Friday Eulogy

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Sitting here in Massachusetts on this dreary, dour and dank day, looking out the window and watching all manner of birds at the feeders (they’re really fond of the suet), I was planning on writing something about Roberto Ceniceros’s excellent article, “Taking the Psych Out of Psychosocial,” published this week in Risk & Insurance’s Workers Comp Forum.
Roberto suggests that the prefix “psych” in “psychosocial” causes confusion in the payer community, because it is difficult to distinguish between social co-morbidities and true psychological ailments. He also quotes our friend and colleague Jennifer Christian,M.D., who recently started a LinkedIn thread that gained immediate traction on the same subject.
Whatever you want to call them (how about co-morbid issues?), what we now know as psychosocial issues as well as the predictive analytics for identifying them early form the basis for an interesting and necessary discussion.
But we’re not going to do that today. No, today we’re going to sing the praises of someone most of you have never heard of – Ted Coughlin.
Over the years, the Insider has written about the shortage of skilled workers in the US, especially in manufacturing, which has become highly technical. The country’s educational systems were not keeping up with the speed-of-light technological advancements that bombard us continuously. This was especially true in Worcester, Massachusetts, where Worcester VoTech had become a city embarrassment. For twenty years, Worcester businessman Ted Coughlin devoted his considerable energy and local power to changing that. A one man force of nature, Ted was the person most responsible for the creation of Worcester Technical High School, a state of the art, nationally envied educational institution.
Early this year, the school won the US Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon School Award, an award won by only 0.2% of the nation’s public and private high schools. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan toured the school in March. In April, the school’s Robotics and Automation Technology Team, the Commandos, one of 420 teams from 23 countries, won the VEX Robotics World Championship. In June, President Obama came to deliver the Commencement Address and acknowledged the extraordinary commitment of the city to lead the way to education’s future. But he saved his greatest praise for Ted, without whom the school would never have happened.
We lost Ted last night. He took a fall at home and died. He was a big-hearted, charismatic Prince of a guy who was loved and admired. In the years to come, graduates of Worcester Technical High School, as well as those from the other schools that Worcester inspires, tomorrow’s leaders, will owe a debt of gratitude to this wonderful man.
And so, that’s why, with apologies to Roberto and Jennifer, we’re postponing the column on psychosocial issues.
Rest in peace, Ted.

Rhyming Risk, TRIA, SCOTUS, CA, TX, Captives, Obesity and more

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

The inimitable Bob Wilson of Bob’s Cluttered Desk is hosting this week’s Cavalcade of Risk, and get this — it rhymes. It’s Out, It’s Plentiful, and It’s Free. It’s the Cavalcade of Risk Number 223. This is not simply a poetic tour de force, there’s some meat and potatoes in the posts, too. We remain in awe of Bob, who is not afraid to handle the controversial topics that others are afraid to tackle. If you aren’t familiar with his blog, take some time to enjoy his wit and wisdom.
In other news of note:
IAIABC Launches Education Program for Work Comp Agency Professionals
The International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) has developed a formal education program. IAIABC Foundations of Workers’ Compensation Administration Program will offer 10 courses in 2015, starting Jan. 12. Kudos to Safety National for supporting this initiative as a sponsor.
Blankenship case gag order
We’d love to be updating you on the court goings-on, but a gag order has been imposed on the case. In fact, even the indictment has been removed from public view. Ken Ward tells us that The Charleston Gazette is among a group of news outlets taking legal action to get access.
2015 Predictions for work comp
As the year winds to a halt, many are looking to the new year. At Manage Care Matters, Joe Paduda offers a roundup of predictions for the coming year, along with his own thoughts.
Dave DePaolo looks at the state of the state in California’s work comp scene and sums it up in on word. Actually, he has a lot more thoughts on the matter, well worth your attention.
Eyes on Texas
Joan E. Collier of WCI’s Work Comp Nation Blog says that the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation has issued its biennial report to the Legislature, declaring that “while additional improvement can always be made, the system as a whole is stable.” She’s got the lowdown in her post.
Down to the Wire on Terrorism Risk Insurance Renewal
Could Super Bowl XLIX be under threat if DC legislators can’t come to agreement on an extension? That and a lot more – New England Insurance Agent Blog breaks it down.
Captives under Scrutiny
In Risk Management Monitor, Robert Myers tells us that, “Thirty-nine states have some form of captive or self-insurance law. Captives are now part of everyday life for regulators and the result is more scrutiny.” He highlights pending issues related to captives.
Opinion analysis: No overtime pay for after-work security check
Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog weighs in on the Supreme Court’s decision on Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk. The court found in favor of the employer. Employers had been suing for overtime pay after the company instituted an anti-theft check requiring all workers to go through an end-of-shift screening. Workers say this process can add as much as 25 minutes of unpaid time per day.
Here are some other discussions of this case:
Michael Fox at Jottings By An Employer’s Lawyer
Jon Hyman Ohio Employer’s Law Blog
If standing in line for 2+ hours a week is a job requirement, then it should be paid as part of the job
Wage Theft Costs American Workers as Much as $50 Billion a Year
Christopher J. McKinney of Texas Employment Law Blog
“Wage theft is a nationwide epidemic that costs American workers as much as $50 billion a year, a new Economic Policy Institute report finds. In An Epidemic of Wage Theft Is Costing Workers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars a Year, EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey and EPI intern Brady Meixell examine incidences of wage theft–employers’ failure to pay workers money they are legally entitled to–across the country.”
The Whole World Is Fat! And That Ends Up Costing $2 Trillion A Year
The McKinsey report estimates the economic impact of obesity around the world at $2 trillion a year. Part of that figure is the cost of caring for diseases that are linked to obesity, like Type 2 diabetes. But there’s an even bigger cost in “the loss of productivity,” Dobbs says. “People suffering from obesity often work less. They have to take more time off sick. They retire early or even die early.”
The United States has the highest obesity rate in the world: 34.9 percent. And while Americans are known for enjoying fast food and being “big,” the other countries in the top five fattest nations might surprise you: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico and South Africa.
New Briefs

Health Wonk Review: Post-Turkey Day edition freshly posted at InsureBlog

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Hank Stern has posted a lively Health Wonk Review: Post-Turkey Day edition at InsureBlog – and rest assured, it’s not leftovers, it’s stuffed with meaty issues! This biweekly best of the health policy blogosphere is a good way to keep up with the wonkery.
Hank is one of our long-term hosts. He and I were waxing nostalgic over his first time at bat back in 2006. To check out other past editions visit the Health Wonk Review archives
Also, as long as you are making the blog carnival news rounds, check out last week’s Cavalcade of Risk #222 hosted by Van Mayhall at Insurance Regulatory Law. We were goofing off over a long holiday weekend, so we didn’t get around to posting it yet, but it deserves a look-see. .

Workers Compensation & the Executive Order on Immigration

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

At his blog Working Immigrants, Peter Rousmaniere has been tracking various public policy, health and work issues related to the underground economy of undocumented workers since 2006. His blog is a go-to source for research, think tank studies, major reportage and more, with a heavy focus on workers’ comp. His topical expertise is good reason for you to follow him as this issue evolves and a good starting point is his recent analysis of the impact of the Executive Order on workers’ compensation.

“The Order will force the workers’ compensation field to address issues that have been lying in plain sight for some time. After all, one-fifth of work injuries are likely sustained by a foreign-born workers, 10% by undocumented workers, whether or not they are reported.

Will the administration’s policy cause a jump in claims? Will it close down grey market labor abuses or open up a Pandora’s box? Will it make it easier to enforce work safety standards or sow confusion?”

His analysis addresses the states that will see the greatest effect:

“According to the Pew Hispanic Center, undocumented workers form the highest share of workforces in Nevada (10%), California (9.7%), Texas (9%) and New Jersey (8.6%). California has the largest number of people in the labor force who are unauthorized immigrants (1.85 million), followed by Texas (1.1 million), Florida (600,000) and New York (450,000.).”

…as well as the industry segments that will be most affected:

Major sectors with undocumented worker employment are farming, construction, hospitality, and institutional (building and grounds maintenance). About four out of every 10 farm workers are undocumented, hence the expectation, of which we will hear more, that providing work rights to these workers will cause food prices (especially fresh produce) to increase. However, farming’s size is dwarfed by the combined size of these other sectors, in which an average 12% of workers are illegal.

Take construction. A fifth to one quarter of lost-time compensable injuries sustained by all undocumented workers are sustained in construction. The typical image of the illegal construction worker is the low skilled laborer. About a fifth of them are estimated to be unauthorized. But a fair number of painters and other skilled workers are also illegal.

Take hospitality, which includes lodging and restaurants. About 20%-25% of room cleaners and cooks are undocumented workers.

For every 10 lost-time compensable injuries sustained by undocumented workers, about five of them take occur in either construction or hospitality. Maybe only one takes place in farming.

He also discusses the potential impact on claims and on employers and insurers.
Here are other related recent blog posts from Working Immigrants:
Arguments pro and con re legality of Executive Actions
Pew Hispanic Center’s estimates for the Executive Action
Some specifics about the Obama Administration’s “Executive Actions”
How Obama devised his Executive Order
Reagan and Bush Sr. used executive orders for immigrants
Chronology of recent news about Executive Orders to come