Posts Tagged ‘Colorado’

It’s A Colorado Rocky Mountain Low

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Since 2003, when Julie Ferguson and I created Workers’ Comp Insider, we’ve tried to keep bias off the keyboard. Careful objectivity is “a consummation devoutly to be wished.”

For reasons you’ll understand as you read, I want to assure readers that in this post we try to hold to that rule.

Last week, we wrote of actual and metaphorical earthquakes shaking Oklahoma to its core. Today, we write of another metaphorical earthquake, but now it’s Colorado’s turn. It’s a story about a three-car crash involving some well-meaning, but perhaps shortsighted, Coloradans, the state’s leading workers’ compensation insurer and Bernie Sanders. Yup. That guy.

Colorado is a lovely state with wonderful people who just happen to be the fittest in America. Although the obesity rate is 21.3%, it’s the lowest in the nation. Blue sky, clean air, great outdoors, what’s not to love?

In Colorado, the well-meaning, but perhaps shortsighted, people have succeeded in getting on the November ballot Amendment 69 to the Colorado constitution. Amendment 69 creates ColoradoCare, which is universal health care for all Colorado residents, illegal aliens included. Nice idea, you probably think. Good for them, eh?

I wish it were that simple.

The known and unknown unintended consequences of Amendment 69, as well as the profound way it impacts and is impacted by a host of other programs, regulations and laws, both federal and state, are overwhelmingly mind-numbing.

But don’t take my word for it. If you’re up for it, read this cogent, well-written, 38-page, highly detailed legal analysis of Amendment 69 by Gerald Niederman and Jennifer Evans, Attorneys with the Polsinelli law firm. The pair were commissioned by the Colorado Health Foundation to dig deep into the crease of what enacting ColoradoCare will mean for the state, and a lot of it will make your eyes roll. Here’s an image. Imagine for a moment a great big camel. Now imagine two or three hundred of Colorado’s fittest trying to push the south-bound end of the north-bound camel through the very small eye of a teeny-tiny needle and you’ll get the point.

Which brings us to the state’s leading workers’ compensation insurer, Pinnacol Assurance, because one of ColoradoCare’s  provisions (discussed on page 34 of the Niederman Evans analysis) is to take over medical care for all work injuries, medical care that since 1915 has been provided through Colorado’s workers’ compensation statute. As you might imagine, this does not sit well with Pinnacol. Pinnacol has many reasons for not being a fan of Amendment 69, all of which are spelled out in Amendment 69 Would Demolish Colorado’s Stable Workers’ Comp System, by Edie Sohn, Pinnacol’s Vice President of Communication and Public Affairs.

At this point, enter, stage left, Senator Bernie Sanders.

As we all know, Senator Sanders’s proposals are highly idealistic. And his supporters are certainly, shall we say, rather exuberant. Regardless, I doubt if either the Senator or those supporters have ever seen Amendment 69. Still, that didn’t stop him from opining the following:

“Colorado could lead the nation in moving toward a system to ensure better health care for more people at less cost,” Senator Sanders said in a statement to The Colorado Independent.”

Say what? “Less cost?” Hmmm. Even proponents of ColoradoCare say it will cost $25 billion, will double the size of the state budget, will be paid by a 10% tax increase on employers and employees and will make Colorado the highest tax state in the nation.

And what will it do to workers’ compensation? Here’s how Pinnacol’s Edie Sohn describes what she considers to be the coming catastrophe:

Why is Pinnacol concerned about changing the health care system? Under current law, workers’ comp insurance covers the health care needs of injured workers and replaces their lost wages for as long as they are out of work. But ColoradoCare would bring the medical payments of workers’ comp under its umbrella.

The proponents of the amendment say that doing so will save Colorado businesses money because their work comp premiums will go down. Of course, those costs aren’t going away, they’re simply being shifted to the health care system. And any workers’ comp savings will be eroded quickly by lower worker productivity and increased indemnity costs. That’s because ColoradoCare won’t have mechanisms in place to do all the things Pinnacol does: work with employers to keep workers safe and minimize the potential for injury, and work with doctors to help injured workers get back to work in a timely and safe way.

Even allowing for a bit of rhetorical spin, Ms. Sohn makes a compelling case, especially in the area of return to work.

For a somewhat contrarian and intelligent view, you may want to read this blog post from the highly-respected Charles Gaba: COLORADO: OK, Single Payer Fans: Here’s your chance to make it happen. Mr. Gaba points out that he is a “fan” of the single payer concept, but does not believe it has the support to happen on a national scale for quite some time. Rather, he thinks the way to achieve it is through individual states, and, although not endorsing ColoradoCare, he thinks, “It’s more realistic and far better thought out than Bernie’s national plan is.”

One thing on which we can all agree is this: November 2016’s election day will be interesting, indeed. I can only hope it is also peaceful and shows off American democracy in its very best light.




Risk carnival, election wrap-up, and tooting our own horn

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

This week’s Cavalcade or Risk is posted by Ironman at Political Calculations. This biweeky roundup of risk posts is a sampling or “carnival” or topic-related posts. Ironman grades the entries for topicality, quality and readability – check it out.
Election resultsWashington’s Initiative 1082 to privatize workers’ comp was soundly defeated last night, as about 58% of the voters opted to keep the system that has operated since 1911 in place. Obviously, this is a disappointment to private insurers and independent agents that hoped to open the state.
In Louisiana, it looks like Amendment 9 passed, but news reports we found are still vague. This change would require that claims would have to be re-argued before a panel of at least five appeals court judges before an agency’s decision could be reversed or changed.
In Arizona, Oklahoma and Colorado, voters cast ballots on constitutional amendments that would bar healthcare reform’s mandate that individuals buy insurance. Opt-out measures were passed in Oklahoma and Arizona, but was defeated in Colorado. Missouri had rejected the mandate in August, but not by a a state constitutional amendment.
At Comp Time, Roberto Ceniceros took a pre-election look at what gubernatorial wins might mean in California and New York. He notes that Jerry Brown was very quiet on the issue of workers compensation in California, but in New York, Andrew Cuomo has employee misclassification on his radar screen. As the state’s Attorney General, he recently joined attorneys general from Montana and New Jersey in an intent to sue FedEx.
And as long as we are on politics, it seems like a good time to bring up today’s news that the Treasury expects to earn a profit on AIG investments. Overall, despite the controversy, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout looks as though it is earning a healthy return.
CT Commissioner resigns – somewhat upstaged by yesterday’s election brouhaha was news that Connecticut’s Insurance Commissioner resigned abruptly. National Underwriter reports that Thomas Sullivan resigns amid pressure over healthcare rate hikes. He faced criticism after approving a 47% rate hike by Anthem BC/BS of CT.
Workers Comp Insider again named to top WC blogs
We were gratified and pleased to be named to 2010 roster of the LexisNexis Top 25 Workers Compensation and Workplace Issues:

“Consistently at the top of the heap when it comes to workers’ comp blogs, the Workers’ Comp Insider is a rare combination of breadth and depth. Now in its eighth year, the Insider covers comp issues, risk management, business insurance, and workplace health and safety from Anchorage to Miami. It provides in-depth analysis concerning workplace legislation, occupational medicine, and best practices from Maine to Hawaii. It should be in the “favorites” folder of every comp attorney’s web browser.”

We thank you, our readers, for your continued interest and support. We were happy to see many friends and colleagues on the list as well – we’re honored by the company in which we find ourselves. Be sure to check out some of the other fine blogs on the list. Also, if you haven’t discovered the gem that is the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation Law Community, we urge you to check that out, too.

Cavalcade of Risk and News You Can Use

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

New Cavalcade of Risk – David Williams of Health Business Blog is this week’s host of Cavalcade of Risk. He offers a concise array of postings, including one method of improving immune response that you absolutely do not want to miss. While stopping by, check out his other posts – he always has the scoop on interesting new issues and trends in healthcare. Also, follow his Twitter feed.
Healthcare reform – The latest Kaiser Tracking Poll on attitudes to healthcare reform shows that while Americans are evenly split on health care reform legislation (43% for; 43% against), but agree on certain provisions. The poll also shows that if Congress decides to stop working on healthcare, 58 percent of Americans say they will be either disappointed or angry, with 38% saying they will feel happy or relieved.
There is support for several key provisions of reform that cuts across all political persuasions. Percent saying that it is extremely or very important:
76% – reforming the way health insurance works
72% providing tax credits to small businesses
71% Creating a health insurance exchange / marketplace
71% Helping to close the Medicare doughnut hole
70% Expanding high risk insurance pools
68% Providing financial help for low / middle income
Property-casualty trends – At the Insurance Information Institute’s Blog, Claire Wilkinson posts that the U.S. property-casualty rating trends are stable. She reports on the A.M. Best 2009 Rating Trend Review, which says that although the industry’s results are likely to be pressured in 2010, rating actions are not expected to move profoundly in one direction and the number of upgrades/positive outlooks and downgrades/negative outlooks will be fairly balanced over the next year.
California agriculture – According to a study conducted by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute, the state’s agriculture industry accounted for 5.5 percent of all injury claims and 5.9 percent of all workers’ compensation benefit payments over an eight-year study period. The three most common injury categories for these workers were medical back problems without spinal cord involvement; minor wounds and injuries to the skin; and shoulder, arm, knee and lower leg sprains.
Colorado Fraud surveillance – Pending legislation in Colorado would put new restrictions on insurers and employers use of surveillance of employees with workers comp claims. Before surveillance can be conducted, the insurer or employer must have a reasonable basis to suspect fraud, and employees would have the right to a hearing to learn why they are being investigated. Critics of the law say that, if passed, it would be the nation’s most restrictive surveillance law related to workers comp. At Comp Time, Roberto Ceniceros examines the issue of the dollar value of surveillance.
Medicare Second Payer deadline – The Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS) advises that the deadline for non-group health mandatory reporting for secondary payer has been delayed from April 1, 2010 to January 1, 2011. “Medicare Secondary Payer reporting requirements are intended to ensure that Medicare remains the secondary payer when a Medicare beneficiary has medical expenses that should be paid primarily by a liability, no-fault or workers compensation plan.”
Health & Safety – Most employers know that good health & safety resources are avaiable from OSHA and the CDC. Don’t forget out neighbor to the north. The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety has a wealth of information also. A few recent finds:
Vibration Exposure
Tips on handling negative interactions at work
Substitution of Chemicals: Considerations for Selection
Excavations: A guide to safe work practices – a 6 part video

Rocky Mountain Two Step: Destabilize and Deprivitize?

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Colorado, like most states, is facing a serious budget deficit. They are scrambling to balance the budget. So the legislature came up with the brilliant idea of tapping the reserves set aside by Pinnacol, the state’s largest provider of workers comp coverage, with 70 percent of businesses in the fold. Pinnacol began as a state operation and was subsequently spun off. It now operates – very profitably – as a mutual insurance company.
The state, facing a budget deficit of $1.4 billion, has its eye on $500 million that Pinnacol has set aside to cover the future costs of current claims. They have proposed a Rocky Mountain two step: first, make Pinnacol a state agency, as it once was, thereby assuming control of the company’s assets. Then, draw $500 million from the reserves and use them to cover a chunk of the current budget deficit.
As is so often the case, Pinnacol is being punished for being successful. Despite having reduced comp premiums by 42 percent over the past four years, and despite having set aside the funds needed to cover future obligations on current claims, Pinnacol is now the proverbial sitting duck. Blinded by cash in the coffers, legislators are poised to make two big mistakes: deprivatize a successful privatization and destabilize a financially stable operation. What are they smoking in the thin mountain air?
Mediocre Alternatives
A consortium of Colorado businesses has lined up against the ill-advised measure. As an alternative, they suggest three steps to close the budget gap:
: “tobacco securitization” – selling bonds against future tobacco settlements [after the economic debacle of the past 8 months, you might label this proposed process insecuritization.]
: sell state buildings [in a depressed market???]
: Reduce the pay of all state employees across the board [easy for the private sector folks to say]
At this point, I’m not convinced that either plan is worth pursuing. As a general rule, it is a bad idea to solve big,short-term problems by making bigger, long-term mistakes. Here’s hoping that cooler heads in the clear, mountain air of Colorado kick back with a Coors and figure out a better path toward solvency .