Archive for the ‘News roundups’ Category

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

Reading the tea leaves: The Trump administration and OSHA

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016


Employers are in a state of limbo between one presidential administration and another, trying to intuit the potential impact as potential names of candidates for the  cabinet and key administrative posts are floated, debated and named. Much is still in the realm of speculation.

One thing is becoming clear: Despite the ambiguity that Trump’s recent comments about possibly preserving some parts of Obamacare, it’s clearly on the chopping block. Any doubts were laid to rest in naming Representative Tom Price of Georgia as the secretary of Health and Human Services. An orthopedic surgeon, Price is an ardent foe of the ACA. He is likely to set his sights on Medicare and Medicaid,  too.

But what of other workplace issues? A key indicator will be naming a prospective Secretary for the Department of Labor. Several names have been floated, but as of this writing, no definitive pick has been named. PA congressman Lou Barletta has been cited by many as leading the pack of those under consideration – there are some reports that he has been offered the position, but no confirmation yet. Other possible contenders include Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants (parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s) and Victoria Lipnic, a commissioner on the Equal Employment and Opportunities Commission and former assistant labor secretary under George W. Bush. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s name has also been raised by some, a selection that would be chilling to labor unions.

At EHS Today, Sandy Smith offers a not-to-be-missed insider view of Transitioning to a Trump Administration: What It Could Mean for the Department of Labor and OSHA.

Her article offers informed perspective by Former Assistant Secretary of Labor Edwin G. Foulke Jr., who spearheaded OSHA under George W. Bush. He also was the chair of Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) during the transition from George H. Bush to Bill Clinton.

Foulke talks about the immediate process, offering a detailed look at the steps and timeline involved in the transition. He also offers his thoughts on what labor and OSHA issues he expects that the Trump administration will revisit. Here are the items he lists, but click through for the details.

  • Walking-Working Surfaces Standard
  • Respirable Silica Standard
  • Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses
  • Whistleblower Statutes
  • Increased OSHA Penalties
  • OSHA Enforcement
  • Non-Company Personnel Participation in OSHA Inspections
  • Restroom Access for Transgender Workers
  • Compliance Assistance
  • Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission

For another take on this, labor and employment law attorney Mark S. Kittaka also looks at Trump’s Potential Impact on OSHA in an article in the National Law Review. Kittaka rehashes some of Trump’s stated priorities and notes that,

“Even without changing a single regulation, Trump could simply limit OSHA’s enforcement ability by cutting their budget. This was a tactic used by President Ronald Reagan and with a Republican majority in both the House and Senate, this is a distinct possibility.”

He identifies the following areas as likely to come under scrutiny:

  • Electronic Recordkeeping/Non-Discrimination Provisions
  • Recordkeeping as a Continuing Violation
  • Silica
  • Interpretation Letters

In other news, CNN reports that Trump will tap billionaire Wilbur Ross for Commerce secretary, As the administration’s chief business advocate, he’s the type of appointment Trump promised: a non-politican executive from the business community. Ross would be expected to help Trump reshape global trade and revive steel and coal, both industries in which he has experience.

But in coal industry, there were some problems. According to CNN:

Ross’s foray into the coal industry, however, ran into trouble in January 2006 when 12 miners were killed after an explosion at the Sago Mine in West Virginia. His company, the International Coal Group, had taken over the mine a couple months earlier.

According to federal reports, the mine had recorded 96 safety violations in 2005 that were deemed “serious and substantial.” The mine was fined nearly $134,000, an amount later reduced in court.

Read another profile of Ross from our go-to coal industry expert, reporter Ken Ward Jr., who speculated about a potential Ross appointment on his Coal Tattoo blog earlier in the month. Ward notes

“It is worth pointing out that if he got either the Commerce or Treasury slot, Ross would not be in charge of coal mine safety and health regulation for the Trump administration. Folks who are concerned about those issues would obviously be better off watching to see who President-elect Trump makes Secretary of Labor — and then who exactly is chosen to by Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health.”

The election’s impact on health care: ACA, workers comp, Medicare

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Joe Paduda posted a roundup of opinions on the results of last week’s election, with contributors sharing their thoughts on how the GOP’s sweep will affect health care, health reform, and the health care system: The election’s impact on health care – experts opine.

Before wading in to the fray, Joe reminds us that health care accounts for one-sixth of our GDP, and that it is an incredibly complex, deeply entrenched business.

Joe is a brave man with his crystal ball. Also on his blog, today he takes a look at Trump and workers’ comp. Last week, he offered his initial take on TrumpCare.

Over the weekend, we learn that Paul Ryan plans to phase out Medicare in 2017. Ryan says “What people don’t realize is because of Obamacare, medicare is going broke, medicare is going to have price controls because of Obamacare, medicaid is in fiscal straits.” His proposed “phase in” is contemplated as part of the plan to repeal Obamacare.

Josh Marshall notes:

First, Ryan claims that Obamacare has put Medicare under deeper financial stress. Precisely the opposite is true. And it’s so straightforward Ryan unquestionably knows this. The Affordable Care Act actually extended Medicare’s solvency by more than a decade. Ryan’s claim is flat out false.

Second, I’ve heard a few people say that it’s not 100% clear here that Ryan is calling for Medicare Phase Out. It is 100% clear. Ryan has a standard, openly enunciated position in favor of Medicare Phase Out. It’s on his website. It’s explained explicitly right there.

People voted for change, but it’s not clear that they contemplated a private Medicare system as part of that change.

Pre-election Health Wonk Review & other news of note

Friday, November 4th, 2016

Brad Wright has a super excellent edition of Health Wonk Review: The Game 7 of Politics Edition. His post skillfully ties two of America’s favorite and most contentious pastimes together: sports and politics. Many good entries from the web’s best health wonks: the ACA, the rigged healthcare system, the Internet of Things and more – check it out.

… and in other news that caught our attention:

Drug spend is down by 8.7% – according to CompPharma’s 13th Annual Survey of Prescription Drug Management in Workers’ Compensation. “Payers credited tighter clinical management, better integration with their pharmacy benefit managers, and prescriber interventions for the decrease. All have opioid management programs to limit the number of initial opioid prescriptions and/or decrease morphine equivalents across as many claims as medically appropriate.”

Will Zika be a work comp issue?
That’s an issue being raised by two Miami Beach police who believe their illness was work related. One cop “…was originally granted workers’ compensation, only for the city to yank it away from her days later. The other officer was denied outright.” Their union is going to bat for them. Union Says Miami Beach Cops Caught Zika on Duty, But City Won’t Pay Their Bills

Injury rates are plummeting, insurance premium rates are flat or dropping, medical costs are down as well. Joe Paduda talks about what’s really happening in workers’ comp.

If I knew then: Conference Chronicles offers Lessons Learned from Retiring Insurance Executives, a panel at the 2016 PCI Annual Meeting.

Roberto Ceniceros offers kudos to employers who are building injured-worker advocacy programs.

At Working Immigrants, Peter Rousmaniere keeps us up-to-date about demographics and trends. His latest post of note offers a perspective on the Hispanic vote on November 8.

Quick takes

Health Wonk Review and other noteworthy news

Friday, October 21st, 2016

Check out the latest and greatest Health Wonk Review Election Edition – Mama Says Eat Your Peas and Don’t Forget to Vote. Peggy Salvatore hosts this pre-election edition at Health System Ed blog and while there are several posts related to policy issues are play in the election, there are several other posts too – check it out!

And while on the topic of elections, marijuana legalization is on the ballot in 5 states this election. The states are populous enough that if all were to be approved, the laws would encompass about one quarter of the US population – critical mass for federal legislation? There are also four states with ballot measures to approve medical marijuana. Russell Berman writes about all this in the Atlantic: Marijuana’s Moment.

Must-read: If you haven’t yet read Joe Paduda’s 2-part series on customer service in workers comp, you need to go there now. In part 1, he makes the case that case that customer service functions must be handled internally; in part 2, he offers a case study demonstrating that it’s not about your company’s metrics, cost structure, or “efficiency”, it’s ALL about your customer.

Opiod News from a recent KHN Morning Briefing: The pharmaceutical industry has taken to treating secondary symptoms of opioid abuse with more pills. Meanwhile, even as the U.S. tries to regulate the trade of chemicals used to make fentanyl, a new, extremely potent drug is hitting the streets.

Other noteworthy news

Health Wonk Review; Paduda’s Pre-election Pundit Ponderings

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

A fresh Health Wonk Review was posted at the tail end of last week – Pre-election Pundit Ponderings. Joe Paduda is the host at Managed Care Matters. It covers a wide range of topics, including various aspects of the ACA, the exchanges, Medicare expansion, pharma costs, and more. Plus Joe points to a new workers comp blog: Good News Work Comp Blog.

While you’re over at Joe’s blog, we point you to his important series of posts that you shouldn’t miss:

Finally, just in case the election is getting you down, we offer a little bit lighter take on things from the hilarious “Bad Lips Reading” folks:


A 10 year anniversary Health Wonk Review & more noteworthy news

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

It’s Health Wonk Review week! Louise and Jay Norris host a special edition at Colorado Health Insurance – not only is it a mere 46 days to the next election so that has the wonkers opining – it is also the 10th blogging anniversary for the hosting blog – The “We’re Ten!” Edition of the Health Wonk Review. There are great entries from both the usual subjects and some fresh faces. Louise is a great host, framing everything nicely. Congratulations on 10 years of blogging, Louise & Jay. *clinks champagne glass*

More news of note

Just by way of coincidence, September is our birthday month here at Work Comp Insider, too – we launched in 2003! That makes us a grizzled old timer in Internet time.

Oklahoma and opt out– in case you missed it, the Oklahoma Supreme Court Ruled Workers’ Comp Opt-Out Unconstitutional:

Justice Watt, in the Court’s highly anticipated written decision, said the OWCC previously found the Opt Out Act: “1) constituted an unconstitutional special law; 2) denied equal protection to Oklahoma’s injured workers; and 3) denied injured workers the constitutionally protected right of access to courts.”

And the high court agreed, finding that the core provision of the Act “creates impermissible, unequal disparate treatment of a select group of injured workers.”

The PCI and AIA were quick to applaud the decision. Joe Paduda hopes this is the end to what he sees as the pointless debate about Opt-Out (we hope so too). Bob Wilson looks at some of the loose ends in the wake of this decision.

Psych indicators – Most of us in the industry are pretty familiar with triggers or warning signs that would indicate an accident investigation or the need for early medical intervention — but perhapsare  less familiar with indicators that might signal the need for a psychological evaluation. Our friends at Work Comp Psych Net have posted a handy reference list of Predictive Psychosocial Triggers For Workers’ Compensation Claims.

Obesity’s toll on WC – A new study in the September Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine shows that obese and overweight workers are more likely to incur high costs related to workers’ compensation claims for major injuries;

But for workers with major injuries, high BMI was associated with higher workers’ compensation costs. In this group, costs averaged about $470,000 for obese and $270,000 for overweight workers, compared to $180,000 for normal-weight workers.

After adjustment for other factors—including high-cost spinal surgeries or injections—obese or overweight workers with major injuries were about twice as likely to incur costs of $100,000 or higher. Body mass index had no effect on costs for closed claims or for less-severe injuries.

Safety Culture Does Not Exist!  – This is a half-hour podcast interview with Dr. Edgar Schein, Professor at MIT Sloan School of Management. Well worth a listen. We weren’t aware of this podcast series and it looks great: The Pre Accident Podcast is an ongoing discussion of Human Performance, Systems Safety, & Safety Culture. The Dr. Schein interview is the #88th edition!

Speaking of safety …. It’s Farm Safety & Health Week from September 18-24.

More news of note

New Back to School Daze Health Wonk Review and more news of note

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

It’s back to school and back to business. And it’s 60 days until the election! David Williams curates an excellent season debut issue: Health Wonk Review: Back to School Daze – check it out. There’s a little bit of everything: opioids, epi-pens, ACA, health care tech – check it out!

A few other things that caught our interest lately:

Related and upcoming: September 13 noon-1:30 pm Helping Workers Keep Their Jobs After an Injury, Illness, or Disability – the event will take place in DC and online.

Kudos to insurance web pioneer Bob Wilson on 17 years of  – really, what foresight! Read his thoughts at  Social Media, an Anniversary and Reflections. We’re a few year behind him at 14 year this month.

August Health Wonk Review at Healthcare Economist

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Health Wonk Review is on an abbreviated summer schedule – if you’ve missed your biweekly fix, the August edition is up: Jason Shafrin has posted Health Wonk Review: Short and Sweet Edition at Healthcare Economist. It’s a great edition – catch up on the policy news!

For more summer reading:

Our friends at Work Comp Psych Net have a helpful post offering guidance on when adjusters should refer claims for mental health evaluations.

Joe Paduda explains why Trump will be GREAT for workers’ comp!

HR Director Reminds Employees That Any Crying Done At Office Must Be Work-Related

Employer toolkit for the Zika virus

Insurers Offer Advice to Flood Victims in Southeast

From Risk & Insurance: In Support of Monitoring and Legislation to Collateralize Workers’ Comp

We were saddened to see the recent closure of Business Insurance and offer sincere thanks to the the many editors and writers who kept us informed over the decades. The editorial staff at Business Insurance have long been recognized as top tier so it’s a true loss to our industry!

The GB Journal: Pithy, Trenchant and Chock Full Of Stuff You Can Use

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

In March of this year, friend and colleague Dr. Gary Anderberg, Senior VP of Claim Analytics for Gallagher Bassett Services, had another one of his good ideas: Publish concise and useful information for risk managers who don’t have a lot of spare time to wade through oodles of research. In Gary’s words:

The basic purpose of The GB Journal is to keep our clients informed on new developments that impact WC, A/L, G/L and property coverages. The idea is that most risk managers are more than a little pressed for time, so a neat synopsis with a link or two for those interested in more details, will be helpful. We also see this as a neat vehicle for generating useful conversations between our account managers and our clients concerning important issues. I try to keep the average item to about 350 to 400 words and no more than three items per issue. That’s no more than five minutes of reading time total.

And presto, his GB Journal was born.

GB 11 August

I love the tagline: We deal in conclusions, not opinions.

Gary says the Journal is for clients of GB, but anyone can subscribe. He’s the sole author and publishes every other Thursday. The current issue summarizes the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute’s recent analysis of eight state’s attempts to curb physician in-office dispensing and discusses the new term of the day, BoT – Burden of Treatment.

At the Insider, for years we’ve been doing something similar when Julie Ferguson posts her News Of Note, but we have no set schedule for that and don’t limit it to three items. Gary’s approach is different, but certainly worthwhile and effective.

I like what Gary is doing. It’s good for GB’s business, but it’s also good for the workers’ compensation community at large. If you’re not already a subscriber, I recommend you become one.