Archive for the ‘News roundups’ Category

Freshly posted Health Wonk Review at InsureBlog

Friday, April 7th, 2017

Start your Friday with your morning beverage of choice and a fresh edition of Heath Wonk Review. Over at InsureBlog, Hank Stern has posted the Health Wonk Review: Pre-Passover edition. In his Twitter promo for this edition, he promises “Everything from horseradish to opioids” – you are probably not going to find too many insurance-related posts quite that eclectic!

In addition to wonks weighing in on RyanCare and the future of the ACA, other topics include opioids, physician burnout, the physician mission, price transparency, “the coding swindle” and more. Check it out!

We bring one post in particular to your attention – a post by HWR regular Brad Wright at his Wright on Health blog. He relates an up-close-and-personal encounter with the health care system, and reflects on his experience in the larger context of healthcare availability and accessibility.  Wonkery is all well and fine, but there is nothing quite like a personal testimonial to make a powerful impact. (Wishing you the best as you recover, Brad!)



Wonks weigh in on AHCA prior to today’s vote; more news of note

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Today is not only countdown to the House vote when we learn if AHCA passes the first hurdle. The date is significant because it is seven years to the day that President Obama first signed the Affordable Care Act into law, as Louise Norris notes in this week’s hot-off-the-press AHCA: The Aye or Nay? Edition of the Health Wonk Review, posted at Colorado Health Insurance Insider. As you’d expect, many wonks weigh in on ACA/AHCA related matter, but on other health policy issues as well – check it out, Louise always offers a great digest of posts.

Other noteworthy news

The return of Confined Space: It’s with mixed emotions that we welcome the excellent workplace health & safety blog Confined Space back to the blogosphere. It’s a welcome addtion – it’s been on mothballs while author Jordan Barab served as OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary. It has been a boon for the nation’s workers to have Barab working in a position of influence on their behalf, so we are sorry to see that he is no longer in that post, but we can’t endorse his blog strongly enough – an informed voice and a strong advocate for safe workplaces. We’re fans because we view safe workplaces not only as a moral imperative because they are good for employees, they are good for business too. You can also follow Barab on Twitter @jbarab.

WCRI’s facelift: Just in time for Spring, the Workers Comp Research Institute – more familiarly known as WCRI – has launched a fresh new WCRI website, complete with a a fresh new logo. It’s a much cleaner look with simplified navigtion and designed to be more responsive on any device, including phones. We’re also delighted to see that they’ve added a WCRI Blog, a handy way to keep up on what’s new. You can read more about the new site here: WCRI Launches Redesign of Website with New Logo.

Telemedicine: Joe Paduda says that “Telemedicine will be one of – if not the – most disruptive force in workers’ compensation medical care.” Check out Paduda’s interview with Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association.

NIOSH Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program: NIOSH is offering free, confidential health screenings for coal miners in 2017. Screenings will be provided in coal mining regions throughout Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, and Eastern Kentucky. The schedule for Alabama Black Lung Screenings (PDF) has been issued – they begin next week. Watch this site for more information and future screening locations.

More noteworthy news

Wonks opine on Republican healthcare plan & more

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Check out the freshly posted “May You Live in Interesting Times” Edition of Health Wonk Review posted by Peggy Salvatore at Health System Ed Blog. If your head hurts from trying to analyze the new plan, let the wonks lighten your load – some pretty smart people have weighed in.

Of course, while Obamacare past, present and future is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. that’s not the only issue discussed in this weighty issue. Other topics include a tribute to a health care advocate pioneer, a look at our new Secretary of Labor, posts on cancer care, clinical outcome technology, cyber security and medical marijuana.

Fresh Health Wonkery and other news of note

Friday, February 24th, 2017

Check out the newest Health Wonk Review: Presidents’ Day edition, hosted by David Williams at the excellent Health Business Blog. This week’s issue has a plethora of posts about the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare – quelle surprise! The wonks offer diverse and informed opinions. Don’t miss David’s post on the Cadillac Tax – that one was news to us. There are other topics discussed, too. We always Like Roy Poses posts – he is always holding someone’s feet to the fire for conflicts of interest, and we like that about him!

Other noteworthy news

I can tell you from my own experience that injured workers entering our system are confused and befuddled, guided by complete misperceptions about who we are and what we do. The general lack of thorough communication in the form of understandable explanations and dialogue often creates a vortex of negative opinion with damaging results. Living Abled & Healthy is designed and intended to cure that particular ill. It provides explanations that will empower the willing injured, not in a confrontational mode, but rather one that can help them determine a better outcome for themselves


Fresh Health Wonk Review at blog – check it out!

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Steve Anderson has posted the latest and greatest Health Wonk Review – the #alternative_facts Edition at blog.

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is not all that’s on our wonks’ minds of late, but it certainly takes up a huge portion of the mind share as evidenced by the plethora of related posts. We are a diverse crew, though, so there are also posts about a variety of other topics: the reaction to/impact of the immigration ban on healthcare industry, best cancer treatments, the process of healthcare M&As, legal liability in the form of class action suits for a data breach. and workers comp. One thing we find: the contributors are all very knowledgeable people – even if a topic is not on your radar, it’s a good way to learn something new.

Two posts we think are particularly worth calling out:

If ACA is repealed, how many will max out on restored lifetime coverage caps?

If ACA is repealed, how many are at risk of losing coverage by U.S. Congressional District? (Data covers 35 states)

Fresh Health Wonk Review posted at Joe’s place

Friday, January 27th, 2017

As we embark on the second week of a new administration, Joe Paduda has posted Health Wonk Review’s Inauguration Edition at Managed Care Matters. Rather unsurprisingly, the Affordable Care Act is much on the minds of the wonks, so there’s quite a few posts dealing with various aspects of repeal and replace.

Related to the topic of this week’s health wonkery, Joe also has a post on his blog about how the demise of the ACA would impact workers comp, specifically. A key quote:

“If ACA is repealed without a simultaneous and credible replacement, we may well see a rise in the number of workers without health insurance. The key issue to track is a cutoff of funding for Medicaid expansion – ACA added about 13 million more employed people to the insured rolls; if they lose coverage they’ll need a different payer to cover their injuries. Bad news for workers’ comp.”

And we’d point you to one other not-to-miss post at Managed Care Matters – Beware of Astroturf, the infuriating story of the American Pain Foundation, an pharma industry sponsored opioid-peddling outfit masquerading as a patient advocacy organization.

OSHA under President Trump: early signs

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

We’re still awaiting an appointment to the Department of Labor under the Trump administration, so we don’t expect an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) director to be named until after that. Right now, a hearing for the controversial Andrew Puzder as secretary of labor is scheduled for February 2. Part of the controversy related to the fast-food CEO revolves around numerous civil rights suits that his company has logged.

In the National Safety Council’s Safety + Health Tom Musick reports that legal experts are predicting significant changes for worker safety regulation under the new administration in his article OSHA under Trump: A closer look.

Here’s a summary of the article’s key points:

  • Labor-law experts predict that OSHA will move away from an enforcement-based strategy and toward compliance assistance and cooperative programs for employers.
  • OSHA’s funding could decrease, and the way it spends its funds also could change if Trump limits the agency’s enforcement budget.
  • Recent regulations such as the injury and illness recordkeeping rule, the silica rule and the so-called “blacklisting rule” all could be in jeopardy under the Trump administration.

For another take at the crystal ball, Russell Carr has issued two in three-part series of articles on potential changes at EHS Today. Carr comes from the perspective of an owner of an environmental, health and safety consulting business.

In looking at changes that may be in store for OSHA and other regulatory agencies, it’s instructive to look at the broader context of some steps that have been taken early in the new administration.

Hiring freeze

On his first day in office, President Trump issued a hiring freeze on non-military federal employees and, at least for some departments, on grants and contracts.

“President Donald Trump’s hiring freeze will last only as long as it takes his administration to come up with an alternative attrition plan, according to a memorandum released by the White House Monday, and could provide broad exemptions for agency leaders.

Trump said his hiring moratorium would “be applied across the board in the executive branch” and apply to any positions vacant as of Jan. 22. It would bar agencies from creating new positions. Agency heads can exempt positions they deem “necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities.”

The hiring freeze is expected to be a precursor to federal job cuts of as much as 20% in some departments and was issued to counter “the dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years.” An article at Government Executive points out that there has been no federal workforce expansion and that “employment by the federal government as share of all US employment is relatively low compared to most of the last 70 years.”

Opponents to the freeze point to several potential unintended consequences: Trump’s Federal Hiring Freeze May Kill Hundreds of Jobs for Nurses, Scientists and Engineers

Unions and veterans groups say the federal hiring freeze would make the government less efficient, and make it harder for the US military personnel to find jobs when they leave the service. (About a third of all federal hires are military veterans, although if they’re working security positions, for example, they may not be affected).

The freeze could also take off the table thousands of well-paying jobs for US citizens with higher education and specific skills.

Federal employees have other reasons to feel pressure, among them the recent reinstatement of the Holman Rule: House Republicans revive obscure rule that allows them to slash the pay of individual federal workers to $1:

The Holman Rule, named after an Indiana congressman who devised it in 1876, empowers any member of Congress to propose amending an appropriations bill to single out a government employee or cut a specific program.

The use of the rule would not be simple; a majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment. At the same time, opponents and supporters agree that the work of 2.1 million civil servants, designed to be insulated from politics, is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.

Information lockdown – temporary or a sign of things to come?

There’s always a level of anxiety in the federal workforce when a new administration takes the reins, but one other issue has been causing a level of discomfort among employees. Numerous news reports reveal an information crackdown on staff in various federal agencies, from the the Environmental Protection Agency to Departments of Agriculture, Health & Human Services, and the Interior. In its article Trump clamps down on federal agencies, The Hill reports:

It’s not unusual for incoming administrations to seek control over agency communications, especially at the outset, when Cabinet secretaries aren’t in place.

But experts on the federal workforce say they have never seen a White House take the type of steps Trump’s administration has to curb public communications.

Restrictions are reported to include press releases, photos, tweets, speaking engagements, fact sheets, news feeds, and more. See a related story at Politico: Information lockdown hits Trump’s federal agencies. Hopefully, this will be short-term in nature, but one that we will be watching – by early indicators, it doesn’t seem as though an open “sunlight” approach to communications will be a core value of this administration.  if we were putting money on it, we’d bet that it’s just a matter of time until OSHA’s recordkeeping rule is toast, particularly in light of pending lawsuits challenging the rule and Trump’s recent promise to roll back regulations by somewhere int he order of 70-80%.

See our prior post:  Reading the tea leaves: The Trump administration and OSHA


Health Wonk Review: The “words matter” edition

Thursday, January 12th, 2017



Words matter. Right now, for good or bad, as the torch is being passed from one president to new one, one of the key platforms that PEOTUS ran on was eliminating Obamacare. But as the reality of that potential grows closer, social media is abuzz with debates. It would appear that some people didn’t fully understand what they signed up for. Going viral on Facebook, a poster celebrates the demise of Obamacare, patting himself on the back that he had the good sense to go with the Affordable Care Act instead. This person is not alone – witness the Twitter poster who berates Senator Murray: “Why don’t you shut up Murry. Stop Crying. You lost. We won. We are repleaing Obamacare, not the ACA.” We could post more examples, but you get the point. Polls have repeatedly demonstrated that words matter – the healthcare law is viewed much more favorably as the ACA than as Obamacare.  And a number of insureds don’t realize they are one and the same.  We may soon have the dubious privilege of learning how widespread this confusion is.

Wendell Potter also thinks words matter, and opines that poor communication was among the factors that got us to this point of repeal/replace. At blog, he says that “lazy, superficial reporting” – and poor communication from the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats – has kept most Americans in the dark about how repeal of Obamacare would affect them. Potter runs down a list of the health coverage problems Americans faced before ACA implementation … as a preview of the problems that the GOP will resurrect if they can repeal the law. Check out Back from the Future. (A sequel we’ll all hate.)

At Managed Care Matters, Joe Paduda tries to clear up some of the miscommunication with a Q&A aimed right at the insured. Joe has been engaged in a series of posts aptly titled ACA Deathwatch. In his most recent post, he tackles what ACA repeal will mean to the consumer in a basic Q&A format. He looks at post-repeal life under replacement plans, tackling issues like what will happen to your cost, will pre-existing conditions be covered, will plans be inclusive of all conditions, etc.

At Health Affairs Blog, Joe Antos and Jim Capretta look at the The Problems with “Repeal and Delay”, warning that the most likely end result of repeal and delay would be less secure insurance for many Americans and procrastination by political leaders. They lay out the possible legislative scenario that this would follow and document the problems:

“To build a functioning marketplace, and to provide a ready path for all Americans to get health insurance, it is necessary to put together a coherent series of policies across Medicaid, employer-sponsored insurance, and the non-group insurance market. A workable plan will necessarily touch on all of these areas, and will be lengthy and politically contentious. That may not be ideal from a political perspective, but the alternative is incoherence and half-measures that will lead to a system that many Americans will view as worse than the ACA status quo.”

At Colorado Health Insurance Insider, Jay Norris offers a street level view of the level of scrutiny that all things ACA have been under in his post Connect for Health Colorado and the OIG Audit Report. Apparently, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) released an audit report (the full report is here) regarding Connect for Health Colorado’s use of federal start-up funding. This funding was provided for state-run exchanges to get their operations up and running in 2013 and 2014. A poorly worded title on the front page of the report, combined with clumsy explanations in the report gave the media and anti-ACA folks a lot to complain about. Jay dissects the details, asking whether at least some of this falls under the much ado about nothing category.

Of course, not everyone is a fan of Obamacare or we wouldn’t be engaged in these political brouhahas in the first place. In a post entitled Flatline at InsureBlog, Patrick Paule “pulls back the curtain on the fiasco known as Open Enrollment v4.0. Disappointing!”

We do have at least a few entries that aren’t focused on the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

At Health Care Renewal Blog, Roy Poses looks at Dr. Tom Price and finds him wanting, in his post Follow the Money: Nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services Traded Health Care Stocks and Owned Tobacco Stocks While in Congress. For the uninitiated, Roy is a longtime critic and caller-outer of conflicts of interest as they relate to physicians – something that he as a physician himself is fairly passionate about. He finds the current HHS nominee a little too cozy with big pharma, biotech, device companies and health insurers. But that’s just the least of what Dr. Roy finds objectionable … read up so you can be informed and ready for Tom Price’s cabinet hearing schnduled for January 18.

At Health Business Blog, David Williams says that concierge medicine is well-established in primary care, and now it’s coming to the specialties, too. Concierge pioneer Wayne Lipton explains how the “hybrid” model works and how primary care and specialty practices differ: Concierge Cardiology: podcast interview with Wayne Lipton.

At HealthBlawg, David Harlow ponders whether “Big Data” is too big to analyze productively – reasonable minds may differ. David draws some interesting analogies and concludes that computing power has indeed caught up with our data-generation runaway train. See: Of Borges and Big Data, Or: Is Big Data Too Big?

At Heatlh System Ed Blog, Peggy Salvatore finds bright spots for healthcare in the future, noting that no matter how the economy or politics turn, there are a few constants where people can have some control. Technological advances and wellness movements can help improve national health without increasing the cost of healthcare. See Healthcare’s Future: Population Health and Information Technology.

At The Healthcare Guys, Abhinav Shashank says that as eventful as last year was for the healthcare industry, expect a lot of surprises are in 2017, too. He cites the 21st Century Cures Act and MACRA as transformational legislation, and looks at potential trends and issues we are likely to see in the coming year. See: Healthcare 2017: What Does the New Year Have in Store?

At Healthcare Economist, Jason Shafrin brings us a great video short which reviews a recent publication in JAMA that details health care spending: Health Care Spending is Complicated.

Here at Workers Comp Insider, we forgo our own submission (OK, we’ve been goofing off in the new year) in favor of a post from our friends and colleagues at Work Comp Psych Net. We realize that workers comp is just a sliver of the overall healthcare budget, but we find it an important segment, dealing as it does with the health and safety of American workers. One thing that differs in the occupational arena is healthcare treatment is always working to an outcome, ideally a successful recovery and return to work after a work-related injury or illness. Mental health issues are often  impediments to a smooth recoveries because they are so often not factored in at all. Work Comp Psych Net sheds a light on progress in this area in the post Psychosocial Issues And How To Deal With Them.

Soapbox: As bloggers, we all enjoy speaking our mind.  As political discourse grows increasingly heated, we think it’s worth  this short PSA: Support the First Amendment and freedom of the press. Journalism isn’t free.  You can purchase great editorial cartoons like the one we use in this post at We’d also encourage supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists with donations. Journalists die for that freedom we enjoy.

Next issue: Jan. 25, 2017 – Joe Paduda – Managed Care Matters

2016 in Review: Workers Comp, Risk Management & More

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017


2016 was both a hair-on-fire and a pants-on-fire kind of year – so much so that the Oxford Dictionary chose “post truth” as its Word of the Year. In case you’ve been buried in a crypt this year or on a desert island (and who could blame you?) here’s an explanation of how they arrived at that choice. Strangely, “fake news” didn’t even make their list, but you can read the runners up.  You shouldn’t find much in the way of fake news here in our post today – we’re looking at key workers comp, insurance and related stories for 2016 – along with a few predictions  for the upcoming year.

First, a look back at the news of 2016

Business Insurance: Most popular workers compensation and safety stories of 2016

Business Insurance: The BI Top 10 of 2016

Insurance Journal: Top 12 Insurance Trends and News Stories of 2016: Countdown

SHRM: Top 5 Risk Management Articles for 2016

Safety News Alert: Top workers’ comp cases of 2016 Part 1: The issues and Top workers’ comp cases of 2016 Part 2: Unique circumstances

DOL Blog: Top 10 OSHA Citations of 2016: A Starting Point for Workplace Safety

OSHA: Worker Fatalities Reported to Federal and State OSHA

Safety News Alert: Top 10 OSHA stories of 2016

Paduda: 2016 predictions – how’d I do?

EHS Today: America’s Top 10 Safest Companies Awards

WorkCompWire: Leaders Speak: 2016 Year in Review CA Dept of Industrial Relations Releases 2016 Legislative Digest With Overview of New Laws

Claims Journal’s Top 10 Legal Articles of 2016

Terms + Conditions: Top 10 Posts of 2016

Fierce Healthcare: 5 notable physician practice headlines in 2016

Heath Affairs: The Most-Shared Health Affairs Articles of 2016

Medgadget’s Best Medical Technologies of 2016

Insurance Journal: Top 10 ‘Most Ridiculous’ Lawsuits of 2016: Chamber of Commerce

Human Resource Executive: Top HR Stories of 2016

HR Morning: Top 10 biggest HR stories of 2016

HR Daily Advisor: Top 20 HR Strange But True Stories for 2016, Part 1 and Part 2

III: Insurance Industry Employment Trends: 1990-2016 

Insurance News Net: ‘Rotten Apples’ Kept Authorities Busy In 2016

PropertyCasualty360: 9 fraudsters join the 2016 Insurance Hall of Shame

Looking ahead to 2017

Is it just us or is the world a little too volatile right now for the usual torrent of predictions for the coming year? Here are a few intrepid folks who step out into the abyss:

Paduda: Whither Workers’ Comp in 2017 — Part I and Part II

Risk & Insurance: 2017 Insurance Executives to Watch

Risk & Insurance: Next-Level Solutions for 2017

Occupational Health & Safety Magazine: Looking Ahead to 2017 Automation Trends and Impacts

LinkedIn: The Freelance Economy: Top Trends to Watch in 2017

CBS News: Tech trends to watch in 2017

Bloomberg: The Pessimist’s Guide to 2017

Of general interest

New Yorker: The Five Biggest Business Stories of 2016

USA Today: Trump, turmoil: The top 10 business stories of 2016

Dave Barry’s Year in Review: 2016 — What the … ?

76 of Donald Trump’s many campaign promises

TSA’s Top 10 Most Unusual Finds: 2016 (Video)

The Atlantic: Second Helpings: 2016’s Underappreciated Science, Tech, and Health Stories

Longreads: Best of 2016: Business & Tech Reporting

New York Times: The Year in Pictures

Google: See what was trending in 2016

Twitter #ThisHappened in 2016


Health Wonk Review & other news worth noting

Friday, December 2nd, 2016


Many folks are still trying to understand the potential impact of the recent election and our health wonks are no exception. Hank Stern hosts this week’s edition at InsureBlog, and in aiming for a palate cleanser, he chooses a soothing theme: Health Wonk Review: Puppies and Kittens edition. Despite the soft veneer, there’s a lot to chew on. Unsurprisingly, the future of the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare is much on the minds of the wonks. Check it out!

A few other new items that recently caught our attention:

OSHA’s reporting rule is on target – for those who were hoping for an injunction in implementing OSHA’s reporting rule, no luck. A Texas judge denied the injunction. Attorney Matthew C. Cooper has the legal scoop at National Law Review: OSHA Reporting Rule Now In Effect – Injunction Request Denied. Sandy Smith at EHS offers more on what the ruling means where the rubber meets the road: Are You Ready for Recordkeeping? Last Hurdle To Implementation Removed

Undocumented workers – In Business Insurance, Joyce Famakinwa reports on another legal ruling:
Comp benefit cap for undocumented workers struck down:

“A limit on workers compensation benefits for undocumented workers is unconstitutional because it prevents them from being eligible for the same comp benefits afforded to legally employed workers in the state, the Tennessee Supreme Court says.”

Traumatic brain injuries – The Sun-Sentinal reports that Former NFL players file civil suit asking NFL to recognize brain injury disease for workers’ comp:

Retired athletes from South Florida are trying to make the National Football League recognize a traumatic brain disease — linked to repeated head injuries — as an occupational hazard that would be covered by workers’ compensation.
Lawyers for the former NFL players filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale against the league and NFL teams, including the Miami Dolphins, on behalf of more than 140 retired players who may have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE.

Also ee Andrew Simpson’s report in Insurance Journal: NFL Players with CTE Sue to Force Teams to Pay Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Trump’s Cabinet – Joan Lowy and Jonathan Lemire of Insurance Journal look at Elaine Chao’s past record as labor secretary under President George W. Bush and how it might impact her approach as head of transportation in Trump’s Transportation Chief’s Record Signals Slowdown in Safety Regulation:

Among the pressing issues facing the next transportation secretary will be how to boost the nation’s aging infrastructure so that it can accommodate population growth and not become a drag on the economy, modernizing the nation’s air traffic control system, ensuring that new transportation technologies are adopted in a safe manner and responding to a surge in traffic fatalities.

Whether it’s integrating drones into the national airspace, deploying self-driving cars or “some other new technology, she’s not going to be especially inclined to second-guess the industry when they say that this will be safe,” McGarity said.

Healthcare CEOs Opine on the ACA – Harris Meyer of Modern Healthcare reports on a recent survey in CEO Power Panel: No repeal without replace

Healthcare CEOs, Paulus among them, are willing to consider Trump’s healthcare reform ideas. But they have strong concerns about whether his plan would match the ACA’s performance in expanding coverage and slashing the uninsured rate to less than 9%, according to Modern Healthcare’s post-election Power Panel survey, which got responses from 93 of 123 CEOs contacted. Leaders of large hospitals and health systems are disproportionately represented on the panel, but the participants also include CEOs of insurers, suppliers and technology companies, as well as associations representing sectors across the industry.
Beyond the ACA, the CEOs surveyed stressed the need for action to curb the growth of prescription drug prices, with 60% saying that should be a top priority for the new administration and Congress.

Brave new world: Robots Are Growing Tons of Our Food. Here’s the Creepy Part. – Tom Philpott, Mother Jones

“You don’t see self-driving cars taking over American cities yet, but robotic tractors already roar through our corn and soybean farms, helping to plant and spray crops. They also gather huge troves of data, measuring moisture levels in the soil and tracking unruly weeds. Combine that with customized weather forecasts and satellite imagery, and farmers can now make complex decisions like when to harvest—without ever stepping outside.”

Quick takes