|The Workers’ Comp News Digest is a monthly news clipping service provided by the Insurance Council of Texas to our members.
Our sincerest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Robert (Bob) Eugene Lang, who passed on Friday, April 26, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. Over the years, many in the workers’ compensation community worked with Bob and respected his devotion to the Texas workers’ compensation system along with his humble and often reassuring words of wisdom.
Bob had a long and distinguished legal career at the former Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission (TWCC) and then DWC. He began with TWCC as a Hearing Officer and worked throughout the state as a traveling Hearing Officer, and often said that it was the best job he ever had. After TWCC was abolished in 2005, Bob served as a regional team supervisor of hearings and proceedings, Chief Judge of the Appeals Panel, and ultimately Deputy Commissioner for Hearings.
Prior to his work at DWC, Bob served in the United States Air Force’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps from 1972 to 1992, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Albert Betts, ICT executive director and former commissioner of workers’ compensation, worked with Lang from 2005 through 2008. Betts said of Lang, “He was a joy to work with and we had many conversations about workers’ compensation law and the Texas system. We also had a few wonderful conversations that thankfully had nothing to do with workers’ compensation. I was saddened to hear about his passing and send my prayers and condolences to his family and loved ones.”
Bob Lang is survived by his wife of 21 years, Karen, two stepdaughters, seven grandchildren, and other family. You can view his obituary here.
Your news digest follows:
May 31 – The Texas Department of Insurance’s Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) announced that Dr. Graves T. Owen, M.D. will serve as DWC Medical Advisor and Jennifer Hopens will serve as Deputy Commissioner of the Appeals Panel.
May 31 – DWC announced the finalization of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Services Plan-Based Audit. The commissioner of workers’ compensation approved the Plan-Based Audit on May 29, 2019.
May 29 – WorkCompCentral reported that Texas lawmakers worked through the weekend to finalize some measures, including a long-awaited cancer presumption fix – Senate Bill 2551. The bill clarifies the 2003 cancer presumption law and lists 11 types of cancer that are presumed to be work-related for firefighters and emergency medical technicians. (Subscription or purchase of article required to read the article)
May 28 – WorkCompCentral reported that Texas lawmakers continued the debate over a much-revised cancer presumption bill right up until the final hours of the 2019 session, but did approve six other workers' compensation measures this year, including two already signed by the governor. The legislation that passed included bills that remove the “remarriage penalty” for spouses of peace officers employed by political subdivisions who were killed on the job and allow advanced nurse practitioners to complete and sign work-status reports. (Subscription or purchase of article required to read the article)
May 21 – DWC announced a new first responder news subscription that will report on specific resources and services available to first responders, updates on any changes in rules affecting first responders, and information on how first responders can handle their claim.
May 21 – TDI reported that they have improved the continuing education services provided to agents and adjusters. TDI noted a short timeframe for obtaining continuing education transcripts, course credit, and other information from the regulatory agency. Another system improvement made by TDI automatically checks to see if an agent or adjuster has completed enough continuing education to renew their licenses. If they have not, TDI sends out an email reminder 90 days before licenses expire.
May 13 – ICT announced that it will host its Annual Workers’ Compensation Conference Thursday, September 19, 2019 at the Hilton Austin Hotel, 500 East 4th Street in Austin, Texas. The conference will feature topics ranging from catastrophic claims, best practices for claims handling, emerging trends for workers’ compensation, and workplace safety issues, among others. Online registration and additional information about the conference can be found here.
May 9 – The Insurance Journal reported that Texas Mutual had announced the distribution of $330 million in policyholder dividends. The dividends will be distributed to over 55,000 business owners, who are policyholder owners of the company in late June.
May 6 – DWC announced that their annual workers’ compensation conference has been scheduled for June 26-28 at the Omni Mandalay Hotel at Las Colinas in Irving. Online registration and information about the conference is available here.
May 30 – Workers Compensation Research Institute reported that according to their study, WCRI Medical Price Index for Workers’ Compensation, 11th Edition (MPI-WC), prices paid for professional medical services for treating injured workers were higher and growing faster in states without fee schedules. The study provides analysis of price trends in a number of states with major fee schedule changes, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
May 28 – The Claims Journal reported that the Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) process continues to be one of the most rapidly evolving areas of compliance in claims. On the horizon are possible significant changes relating to each compliance point: Section 111, Medicare Set-Asides (MSAs), and recovery. Insurance carriers, self-insureds, claims professionals, attorneys, and MSP practitioners will potentially be affected. Enforced penalties and expanded compliance may be on the horizon for Section 111.
May 24 – Business Insurance reported that according to a study recently released by the Workers Compensation Research Institute, the cost of medical care does not have an effect on a worker’s recovery or likelihood of returning to work.
May 23 – Risk & Insurance published an article that provides a doctor’s medical insights on medical marijuana that workers’ compensation professionals should keep in mind. The article touches on issues that include the federal scheduling level of marijuana, risks and impairment issues associated with the use of cannabis, and the clinical efficacy of medical marijuana in the treatment of occupational injuries.
May 22 – Business Insurance reported that according to a report by Marsh LLC, both the number of attacks and lives lost in terrorist attacks fell in 2018 although the threat of continued violence remains acute. The number of attacks fell to 15,819 in 2018 from 22,934 in 2017 and 25,785 in 2016, according to the report, as lives lost fell to 13,570 from 18,466 in 2017 after peaking at 45,081 in 2014.
May 22 – The Insurance Journal reported on global insurance broker Marsh’s 2019 Terrorism Risk Insurance Report and what might happen if Congress fails to renew the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (TRIPRA). Marsh analysts suggest that if it appears Congress will not renew TRIPRA before it expires, there could be various market effects.
May 22 – May 22 – Business Insurance reported that experts are saying the landscape for the use of medical marijuana and cannabinoids is changing in workers compensation, and that it is likely that more insurers will be required to pay for this in the near future. There is legislation to expand medical marijuana pending in 20 states while 10 states are considering recreational marijuana.
May 21 – WorkCompCentral reported that a New York-based company is pairing medical devices such as TENS units with cannabidiol, or CBD, patches in a new strategy intended to relieve chronic pain and speed the healing of musculoskeletal injuries. (Subscription or purchase of article required to read the article)
May 21 – Business Insurance reported that AmTrust Financial Services Inc. has reported that it saw the percentage of claims with opioids decrease from 60% in 2017 to 25% in fourth-quarter 2018. The report, highlighting the New York-based insurer’s new partnership with Jacksonville, Florida-based pharmacy benefits manager Optum Workers’ Comp and Auto No Fault, also revealed that in the last six months of 2018 the insurer cut 13,000 opioid prescriptions the report called “unsafe” or “unnecessary.”
May 17 – WorkCompCentral reported that as firefighter disease presumption laws continue to expand across the nation, the long-term costs of the measures remain largely unknown, according to an analysis from the National Council on Compensation Insurance. One issue preventing a thorough analysis is that many firefighters work for self-insured employers that are not required to report workers’ comp data to NCCI. (Subscription or purchase of article required to read the article)
May 16 – The Insurance Journal reported that ratings firm A.M. Best has issued a warning of ratings downgrades if TRIPA is not renewed by Congress. Insurers that would be significantly hit by TRIPRA’s absence and don’t present a plan to reduce terrorism risk exposures will face ratings downgrades by the end of 2019.
May 16 – Business Insurance reported that according to a study released by the Workers Compensation Research Institute, hospital outpatient payments were higher and growing faster in states with percent-of-charge-based fee regulations or no fee schedules.
May 16 – WorkCompCentral reported that Robert Hartwig, professor of finance at the University of South Carolina, told the National Council on Compensation Insurance’s annual symposium attendees that President Trump’s trade war with China will soon have a major impact on the U.S. economy and, if history is any guide, workers’ compensation may be the hardest-hit segment of the insurance industry. (Subscription or purchase of article required to read the article)
May 15 – Business Insurance reported that a workers’ compensation insurance expert said during the National Council for Compensation Insurance Inc.’s annual Issues Symposium that the workers’ compensation industry needs U.S. lawmakers to act on renewing terrorism risk insurance coverage.
May 14 – Safety National reported that Jim Guszcza, US Chief Data Scientist with Deloitte Analytics, discussed the promise of artificial intelligence and data analytics holds for the workers’ compensation industry during NCCI’s 2019 Annual Issues Symposium.
May 8 – Transport Topics reported that an aging workforce of drivers is elevating the risk of workers’ compensation claims for fleets even as trucking companies are seeing stable or even lower premiums for workers’ compensation insurance.
May 1 – WorkCompCentral reported that the U.S. Department of Labor has issued a new opinion letter that concludes that service providers for a virtual marketplace company are independent contractors. (Subscription or purchase of article required to read the article)