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The Workers’ Comp News Digest is a monthly news clipping service provided by the Insurance Council of Texas to our members.
DWC Holds Annual Workers’ Comp Conference
The Texas Department of Insurance’s (TDI) Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) held its 2019 Workers’ Compensation Conference in Irving, Texas June 26th – 28th. The conference drew a crowd of over 600 attendees.
The conference kicked off with welcoming remarks from Commissioner of Workers’ Compensation Cassie Brown who touted the focus of the event – inspiring innovation in the workers’ compensation system. The conference featured speakers and panelists who covered topics that ranged from active assailant preparedness, medical technology advances and how they are impacting workers’ compensation, legislation passed by the Texas Legislature during the 2019 session, and trends in workers’ compensation.
Advances in medical technology was among the innovations discussed at the DWC’s conference.
One of the highlights was a presentation by William Zachry, a senior fellow at the Sedgwick Institute, who presented a topic that both captivated and alarmed workers’ compensation professionals as he spoke about how medical technological advances will impact health care treatments provided to injured employees. He noted that the medical advances that are applied to occupational injuries in the future will both increase the cost of health care and produce better outcomes for those severely injured on the job.
Zachry reported that the other medical technology that will aid in the treatment are:
  1. telemedicine;
  2. mobile sensors;
  3. 3D printers which are being used to make customized medical implants;
  4. targeted biological drugs; and
  5. augmented and virtual reality which can be used for rehabilitation.

DWC announced that next year’s workers’ compensation conference will be held on May 20 – 21, 2019 at the Renaissance Austin Hotel.
Your news digest follows:

Texas News
June 27 – DWC announced the posting of informal draft rules §§134.150 and 134.155 to implement SB 935 which was passed by the 86th Legislature earlier this year. The rules describe the process for reimbursement of services provided by a federal military treatment facility and procedures for resolving disputes over charges by those facilities. DWC will host a stakeholder meeting to discuss the rules on Monday, July 8, 2019, at 1:30 p.m. at the DWC Central Office located at 7551 Metro Center Drive, Suite 100, in Austin.
June 24 – DWC announced a regional safety seminar which will be held on August 8th at the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation, 7551 Metro Center Drive in Austin. The seminar will provide employers and employees affordable training on common causes of preventable workplace injuries and fatalities and on current and upcoming regulations in the occupational safety and health fields.
June 21 – The U.S. Department of Justice reported that Rafael Enrique Rodriguez, the owner of several San Antonio-based physical therapy clinics was convicted on charges that he defrauded the federal workers' compensation program out of millions of dollars. Rodriguez fraudulently billed the program $8,413,103.14 for these services for which he was paid over $6,300,000.
June 20 – DWC announced that it has determined that any interest or discount provided for in the Texas Workers' Compensation Act shall be at the rate of 5.50 percent. The rate is effective July 1, 2019, through September 30, 2019.
June 14 – TDI announced the issuance of an order to retain Workers' Compensation Classification Code 0923 (domestic workers—payroll basis). The order was issued in response to a petition filed by Texas Mutual Insurance Company.
June 13 – reported that Gov. Greg Abbott signed two bills into law that could make it a little easier for some workers and their survivors to receive workers' compensation benefits. One bill extends the lifetime benefits to spouses of peace officers of state agencies, educational institutions and private junior colleges. The second bill allows advanced-practice registered nurses to sign off on work-status reports for injured workers. (Subscription or purchase of article required to view the article)
June 3 – The Insurance Journal reported that a man sentenced for workers’ compensation fraud must repay Texas Mutual Insurance Company more than $26,000.
June 1 – Firehouse reported that a bill passed by the Texas Legislature will ensure firefighters diagnosed with certain cancers receive the health benefits they need. Eleven types of cancer are listed in Senate Bill 2551 which was filed by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa -- stomach, colon, rectum, skin, prostate, testis, brain, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, multiple myeloma, malignant melanoma and renal cell carcinoma.

National News
June 28 – reported that according to an AM Best report, the workers’ compensation insurance line posted $7.6 billion in favorable loss-reserve development last year, including $1.1 billion of favorable development from Liberty Mutual Group. (Subscription or purchase of article required to view the article)
June 26 – reported that the residual market providing workers’ comp coverage for high-risk businesses that carriers won’t voluntarily insure is shrinking, according to a new report from the National Council on Compensation Insurance. (Subscription or purchase of article required to view the article)
June 25 – The Insurance Journal reported that President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday that could require hospitals to disclose rates they privately negotiate with health plans for tests, surgeries and other procedures. Hospital care cost Americans about $1.1 trillion in 2017, accounting for one-third of all U.S. medical spending.
June 24 – reported that according to a new drug trends analysis from Coventry, drug costs per claim fell 9.3% last year and drug utilization per claim was down 8.8%. (Subscription or purchase of article required to view the article)
June 23 – The Los Angeles Times reported that Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Postmates and other companies have been in discussions with labor unions to stave off a California bill that could force them to treat workers in the state as employees — an outcome that would damage their hopes of long-term profitability. The proposal, details of which are still in flux, would allow the firms to continue to treat workers as independent contractors while providing them some benefits, and protections typically reserved for employees.
June 21 – CBS This Morning reported on a billion-dollar back surgery scam involving doctor kickbacks, fake hardware, and work-related injuries that resulted in $350,000 to $475,000 fraudulent bills per claim.
June 18 – FinancialContent reported that Tarique Nageer, property terrorism placement and advisory leader at Marsh & McLennan, testified before the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, on the importance of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (TRIPRA), which is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2020. Marsh’s recently released 2019 Terrorism Risk Insurance Report notes that should Congress allow TRIPRA to expire without a replacement, it could create capacity shortfalls, especially for businesses with significant workers’ compensation accumulations.
June 18 – reported that as the popularity of electric scooters surges — as well as reports of accidents among riders — the workers’ comp industry is starting to pay closer attention to the devices. The article mentioned a Centers for Disease Control conducted a study of scooter injuries over three months last year in Austin, Texas, interviewing 130 people who suffered scooter-related injuries during that time. (Subscription or purchase of article required to view the article)
June 17 – The National Council on Compensation Insurance announced that its Annual Issues Symposium (AIS) 2019 golf tournament raised $30,000 to support Kids’ Chance. Guy Carpenter sponsored the tournament, which was held May 13, 2019, at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Grande Lakes, in Florida.
June 13 – Bloomberg Law reported that two Trump administration lawyers, Labor Solicitor Kate O’Scannlain and NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, said the Trump administration is limiting legal protections for many gig workers. Both attorneys said most gig workers won’t be seen as employees. The moves mark a shift from the Obama administration’s view that the overwhelming share of workers should be considered employees.
June 12 – reported that legalizing medical marijuana does not reduce the rate of fatal opioid overdoses, according to a newly published study that contradict the findings of a 2014 study on the same topic. The new study, from researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, found no evidence of a connection between opioid deaths and the availability of medical cannabis. (Subscription or purchase of article required to view the article)
June 11 – Business Insurance reported that on a vote of 26-18, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor adopted a bill to require the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to promulgate a standard to prevent workplace violence in the health care and social services industry.
June 7 – reported that an impending update to a medical diagnosis coding system is likely to add complexity to workers’ comp billing, but it could also bring what some consider welcome improvements, including new classifications for chronic pain. (Subscription or purchase of article required to view the article)
June 3 – reported that The Travelers Companies, Inc., Early Severity Predictor model and pharmacy management program has reduced by 40 percent the use of opioids among the injured construction workers it has helped. The company isn’t just focused on the construction industry — there is a company-wide initiative across its workers’ compensation portfolio. (Subscription or registration for limited number of articles per month required to view the article)


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