Archive for April, 2016

April 28: Workers Memorial Day

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Each year, April 28 is designated as Worker Memorial Day, a day to mourn the dead and recommit to safety in the workplace. Despite progress in reducing on-the-job deaths, 13 workers are killed at work every day, with many more suffering grievous and life-changing injuries. Here are some sites and resources commemorating the day.

OSHA: Workers Memorial Day

Workers’ Memorial Day is observed every year on April 28. 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. It is also the day OSHA was established in 1971. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

OSHA provides a clickable map to find activities near you.


AFL-CIO: Workers Memorial Day

From this year’s  fact sheet:

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the effective date of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Act — which guarantees every American worker a safe and healthful working environment — created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to set and enforce standards and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to conduct research and investigations. This year also marks the 47th anniversary of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, and 39th anniversary of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act.

But despite the progress:

The Occupational Safety and Health Act is 45 years old, and is out of date. Millions of workers lack coverage, penalties are weak and worker and union  rights are very limited.

Thousands of workers still face retaliation by their employers each year for raising job safety concerns or reporting injuries —fired or harassed simply because they want a safe place to work. The OSH Act’s whistleblower and anti-retaliation provisions are too weak to provide adequate protection to workers who try to exercise their legal rights

In 2014, nearly 4,700workers were killed on-the-job by traumatic injuries and an estimated 50,000 – 60,000 died from occupational diseases. On an average day, more than 10,000 workers are injured or become ill because of workplace hazards, and 150 workers lose their lives as a result of workplace injuries and diseases.

See events listed by AFL-CIO, as well as this year’s fact sheet.

Other resources


Freshly posted Health Wonk Review: The Early Bird Catches the Worm Spring Edition

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Peggy Salvatore has posted Health Wonk Review: The Early Bird Catches the Worm Spring Edition at Health System Ed Blog . Get the latest on ACA, P4P, ACO, CMS and much, much more from the best health wonks in the blogosphere.

And now – another way to follow Health Wonk Review – please join us for a Blab, a video conversation / text chat: Health Wonk Review On Air With HealthBlawg next Tuesday, April 12, at 1 pm ET for half an hour. You can view it here, or sign in using a Twitter account to log in. Join us live, or watch the replay here later if you can’t make it at #healthwonkreview blab

Introduction to Occupational and Environmental Medicine (OEM)

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

In workers comp, we often speak about occupational physicians or “occ docs” but what exactly does that mean and how does an occupational physician differ from other physicians? Occupational and environmental medicine (OEM) is a board-certified specialty within the profession of preventive medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of work-related injuries and illnesses.  Occupational physicians also serve as champions for the health/safety of workers and their environments.

At its recent annual conference, The American College Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) released a video Introduction To Occupational and Environmental Medicine written and produced by Dr. Jon O’Neal, MD, MPH, FACOEM and Residency Director of HealthPartners and University of Minnesota OEM Program St. Paul, Minnesota.

The video offers a good overview and history of history of the discipline, including its early roots when
Hippocrates and Pliny wrote about occupational injuries and exposures. It also includes a brief history and overview of workers compensation and the occupational physician’s unique triangular relationship with worker and employer.  It also talks about common work exposures and routes of exposure, and the role of the occupational physician, including the prevention component of occupational medicine; treating injured workers; disability management; and various testing and monitoring roles, such as conducting preplacement exams; serving as medical review officers (MRO) in drug screening programs; conducting surveillance exams to measure ongoing effects of work exposures; monitoring fitness for safety sensitive workers such as pilots.

For more on the role of the occupational physician, see ACOEM: What is OEM?

News Roundup: Blankenship Conviction, Physician Dispensing, Right to Carry & More Noteworthy News

Friday, April 15th, 2016

Blankenship gets maximum sentence: One year in prison, $250,000 fine
Ken Ward Jr., Charleston Gazette-Mail

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger sentenced Blankenship to the maximum penalty allowed for his conviction for conspiring to violate federal safety and health laws at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine, where 29 workers died in an April 2010 explosion.
Berger also ordered Blankenship to serve one year of supervised release, sentencing him during a hearing held six years and one day after the mine blast that prompted an aggressive federal investigation that laid bare long-standing complaints about Massey’s business and safety practices under Blankenship’s micromanaging leadership.
“The crime is serious,” Berger told Blankenship, a packed courtroom and a full overflow room equipped with a video feed. “By putting profitability of the company ahead of the safety of your employees, you, Mr. Blankenship, created a culture of noncompliance at Upper Big Branch where your subordinates accepted and, in fact, encouraged unsafe working conditions in order to reach profitability and production targets.”

WCRI: Physician Dispensing of New Higher-Priced Drug Formulations Growing

A new report from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) found evidence of frequent physician dispensing of new drug strengths and a new formulation at much higher prices. This phenomenon was observed in several states with recent reforms aimed at reducing prices paid for physician-dispensed prescriptions. Frequent dispensing of higher-priced new drug products led to substantial increases in average prices paid for some common physician-dispensed drugs.

Dangerous Work for “Crap Money”: The Dark Side of Recycling
Brian Joseph, Mother Jones

“Recycling may be good for the environment, but working conditions in the industry can be woeful. The recycling economy encompasses a wide range of businesses, from tiny drop-off centers in strip malls to sprawling scrap yards and cavernous sorting plants. The industry also includes collection services, composting plants, and e-waste and oil recovery centers. Some of the jobs at these facilities are among the most dangerous in America. Others offer meager pay, and wage violations are widespread. Experts say much of the work is carried out by immigrants or temporary workers who are poorly trained and unaware of their rights.
“These are not good jobs,” says Jackie Cornejo, former director of Don’t Waste LA, a campaign to improve working conditions for waste and recycling workers in Los Angeles. “People only hear about the feel-good aspects of recycling and zero waste, and rarely do they hear about the other side.”

Right To Carry and Comp
Dave DePaolo, DePaolo’s World

“That’s the curious, and interesting (at least to me) aspect of work comp – it’s unique socio-economic place in our daily lives.
We see this as marijuana laws get liberalized across the country. New Mexico, with its courts ruling that medicinal marijuana must be reimbursed via work comp, is at the foreground of this movement, and Colorado with its even more liberal laws not far behind.
We also see this, as pointed out by WorkCompCentral’s Sherri Okamoto in this morning’s news, in state “right to carry” firearms laws.
22 states allow employees to store firearms in their cars while on employer parking lots.”

Oklahoma Supreme Court strikes down workers’ comp rule

“The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down part of the state’s workers’ compensation law, saying the provisions deprived workers of their due process rights and created a subclass of workers.
The 7-2 decision invalidates a portion of the law, enacted by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2013, that authorizes deferral of payments for permanent partial disability for workers who eventually return to their jobs. Justices said deferring permanent partial disability payments if an injured worker returns to work is unconstitutional.”

Report: US Medicine Spending Up 8.5 Percent 2015:

“U.S. spending on prescription drugs rose 8.5 percent last year, slightly less than in 2014, driven mainly by growing use of ultra-expensive new drugs and price hikes on other medicines.
A report from data firm IMS Health estimates patients, insurers, government programs and other payers spent a combined $309.5 billion last year on prescription medicines.”

NCCI Quarterly Economics Briefing

In the latest newsletter, NCCI examines the current state of the economy and the implications for workers compensation insurance. This edition also looks at economic trends in the construction sector and how those trends may impact workers compensation premium by state. Among the findings:
Employment Growth: Hiring was strong in 2015 with private employment growing by 2.8 million workers, the largest increase since the recession.
Wage Growth: After posting an increase of 3.1% in 2014, we estimate that average weekly wages increased by 2.8% during 2015, based on preliminary data to date.
Medical Inflation: Medical inflation will continue to outpace general inflation in the economy for the foreseeable future.
Interest Rates: The current environment of low interest rates continues to restrain investment income in the property/casualty (P/C) industry.

More Noteworthy News

John Geaney: Setting A High Bar For New Jersey’s Bar

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

John Geaney’s been a friend for years. And why not? He’s a Holy Cross and Boston College Law School grad, as well as a Red Sox fan. So, in a way we’re Boston Brothers.

But that’s not important. What is important is that John Geaney is recognized as the pre-eminent New Jersey attorney focusing on workers’ compensation. He heads the workers’ compensation practice for Capehart Scatchard, one of New Jersey’s foremost law firms. There are nearly 40 attorneys in John’s practice department.

John is the author of “Geaney’s New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Manual for Practitioners, Adjusters, and Employers,” and updates it annually. If you have anything to do with workers’ compensation in New Jersey, you need to have John Geaney’s Manual.

In addition to representing a great number of New Jersey’s premier employers, writing a Lexis Nexis Top Blog (a really good one!) and creating the aforementioned Manual, John, teaming with Millennium Seminars, puts on three seminars each year for New Jersey professionals specializing in workers’ compensation.

I’m writing this from today’s seminar in Mount Laurel. I’m attending with Richard Filippone and Mary Ann Kezmarsky, founders of Work Comp Psych Net, a seminar exhibitor and a Lynch Ryan client.


There more than 100 New Jersey workers’ comp pros here, and all of them are highly engaged. Moreover, Geaney’s seminars are always fully subscribed. Attendees keep coming back, and that doesn’t happen by chance. Geaney is charismatic on the podium. The presenters are interesting, articulate and well-regarded. It’s considered a high compliment to be invited to present here.

Around the nation, most states have one, perhaps two, people who set the professional standard for everyone else in their state. In New Jersey, that person is John Geaney.


Fresh Health Wonk Review & New: The HWR Blab

Friday, April 8th, 2016

It’s Health Wonk Review week and Jaan Sidorov has posted A Presidential Politics-Free Health Wonk Review at The Population Health Blog. It contains the maximum on health policy issues of the day and the minimum on politics, as promised. All health policy, all the time! Check it out.

We also have a new Health Wonk Review feature to introduce – the Health Wonk Review Blab. What’s a “Blab”? It’s part video conference, part text chat. After every new HWR, David Harlow and Joe Paduda will join some Health Wonk Review regulars to talk about health policy issues of the day. You can find the pilot edition of HWR Blab here — and here’s a notice for the upcoming edition. You’ll need a Twitter account to sign up and log in, but you can watch live on in replay without an account.

The Sickest Of The Sick, The Poorest Of The Poor

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

They comprise less than 4% of the nation’s population, yet consume nearly 34% of health care dollars. Sixty percent are age 65 or older. About 40% are younger people with ADL-qualifying disabilities. More than half fall below the federal poverty level. Almost half never graduated high school. Nearly two-thirds are female. Fifty-eight percent are white/non-hispanics.

They are America’s “Dual Eligibles,” our fellow citizens who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Technically, because they’re Duals, they are not the “uninsured.” Still, they sit smack dab in Obamacare’s bulls eye.

In 2003, here in Massachusetts, a pioneering visionary decided to create a non-profit HMO that would offer as its sole product a Senior Care Option plan aimed at the over-65 Dual population. As a former head of the Long-Term Care Division within the Commonwealth’s Medicaid Program, Mass Health, Dr. Bob Master knew a lot about the Duals and the many challenges they presented. Somehow, he convinced a few academics and business people to join his brand new Board of Directors for his Quixotic quest. I was one of them.

In the early days, the hunt for funding was all-consuming, but against considerable odds, funding was found, and, with the support of CMS and Mass Health, an incubator for the nation was born – Commonwealth Care Alliance.

Bob immediately set out to prove that Duals could achieve significantly better health and well-being at lower cost if they were cared for in a home-based regimen by highly trained teams of providers. And between 2003 and 2014, CCA produced eye-popping proof of concept results. For example, thirty-day hospital readmission rates for these sickest of the sick and poorest of the poor consistently beat Medicare’s overall rate. CCA achieved annual Medicare star ratings of 4.5 or better (Because of Senior Care Option demographics, it is statistically impossible for the company to achieve a higher rating).

CMS took note. And when medical, academic and political luminaries were crafting the Affordable Care Act, Bob was instrumental in convincing them Duals were a target not to be missed.

Consequently, the Affordable Care Act created demonstration projects in nine states from California to Massachusetts to see whether it’s possible to improve the health of all Duals, those over the age of 65 as well as under it, while reducing their health care costs. A tall order, indeed, because it had never been done before.

CMS and Mass Medicaid issued a humongously big RFP. Commonwealth Care Alliance answered it and won the right to play in the new sandbox, called One Care. The year 2014 was spent in preparing. For example, in order to be ready, the company had to double the size of staff (there are now more than 800) and train the newbies to successfully manage CCA’s unique model of care. That was not easy.

In early 2015, we opened the floodgates to the state’s thousands of Duals under the age of 65. Since then, it’s been a thrilling ride, because throughout 2015 CCA had a few near-death-experiences. But with the help of both CMS and Medicaid we were able to negotiate the potholes and speed-bumps, and now, after more than a few sleepless nights, the company cares for more than 17,000 Duals with Medicare and Medicaid premium of more than $850 million. In essence, CCA is beginning (barely) to do well by doing good. To my mind, if the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, does nothing more than significantly improve the lot in life of the nation’s Duals while lowering their cost of care, it will be a success of the first order.

Now, it’s time to turn the reins over to a new era of leadership. Last Friday, we had a retirement party for Bob Master where CCA employees who could free themselves from work for a couple of hours came to Boston to say hail and farewell. Many came on their own time. There was a great big cake and a lake-full of diet soda and coffee, but no dignitaries, just current staff and a number of Directors. The Chair of the Board said nice things about Bob and the ride we’d all been on. I described how, after all this time, Bob and I had discovered less than a year ago over lunch that, in addition to growing up in the next town to each other, we had been comrades in arms back in the late-60s in Vietnam; in the same Division, even, at the same time. Funny, that.

Many employees read stories they’d prepared for the occasion. Honest tears were shed. Bob gave an extemporaneous speech that was heartfelt and touching. He thanked all who had joined in the noble quest, many by name. Then he rode off into the sunset.

But the work goes on.