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

April 15th, 2016 by Julie Ferguson

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.

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