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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. Your April 2019 news digest follows:

Texas Department of Insurance Adopts Revised Workers' Comp Classification Relativities
 
On April 29, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) announced the adoption of a 15 percent overall reduction in the workers' compensation classification relativities for all policies with an effective date on or after July 1, 2019, unless the insurer files an alternative rate basis.
 
Commissioner’s Order 2019-5949 decreased the classification relativities by an average of 15 percent overall from the July 1, 2018, level. The change for any given classification is between -36.3 percent and 6.3 percent.
 
According to TDI’s Biennial Report, the relativities are used by 3 percent of the workers’ compensation market. About 97% of the workers’ compensation premium in Texas is now based on NCCI's loss-cost filings.
 
Commissioner’s Bulletin # B-0001-19 describes what is required under the Commissioner’s Order and includes instructions on making rate filings.  The bulletin states that insurance carriers currently writing workers' compensation insurance that plan to continue writing that coverage on or after July 1, 2019, must submit a rate filing no later than June 1, 2019. The rate filing must contain the information specified in the "Summary of Actions Required by Insurers 2019 attached to the bulletin. See the bulletin for further instructions and information about required filing forms and exhibits.
 
In related news, Senate Bill 1336, which eliminates TDI’s statutory obligation to develop workers' compensation classification relativities, passed the Senate on Friday, April 26, by a vote of 30-0. The bill is currently pending further action in the Texas House of Representatives.
 

TDI Approves Revisions to NCCI Workers’ Comp Rate Manuals
 
On April 26, TDI approved NCCI’s filing, Item 01-TX-2018, regarding Withdrawal or Termination of Self-Insurance Using a Liability Transfer Transaction and Establishment of National Experience Rating Plan Manual Rule 2-E-2. The changes apply to new and renewal workers' compensation policies effective on and after May 1, 2019.
 

Texas News
 
April 30 – WorkCompCentral.com reported that more than half of doctors are failing the TDI, Division of Workers’ Compensation’s (DWC) Designated Doctor Test as the shortage of designated doctors continues to grow. (Purchase of article or subscription required to read the article)
 
April 22 –A new Senate bill that lists 11 types of cancer malignancies presumed to be work-related has been filed. Senate Bill 2551, by Sen. Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen), is the latest version of a collaborative effort by lawmakers, municipal officials and firefighters to address first responder cancer claims. The bill was considered by the Senate Committee on Business & Commerce on April 30. A substitute bill was voted out of committee.
 
April 19 – WorkCompCentral.com reported that insurers felt heat for opposing a section in House Bill 3676 that would update century-old language on brain injury benefits. The bill deletes the phrase “incurable insanity or imbecility” and substitutes language that focuses on permanent cognitive deficits. After listening to a gravely injured firefighter and three fire chiefs, the House Business & Industry Committee unexpectedly approved HB 3676 during the committee’s hearing by a vote of 9-0. (Purchase of article or subscription required to read the article)
 
April 11 – The Insurance Journal reported that two Texas companies have been indicted by Travis County grand juries in separate cases involving alleged workers’ compensation premium fraud. Amer Haurani of Ambassador Limousine and Charter and Kevin Ortiz of Ortiz Drywall face prison time and a $10,000 fine if convicted. The indictments were obtained by the DWC’s prosecution unit is embedded in the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.
 
April 9 – Dallas Morning News reported that seven out of nine defendants, including four doctors, were convicted for their roles in a $40 million bribery and kickback scheme involving Forest Park Medical Center, which illegally paid for surgeries to boost its bottom line before shutting down.
 
April 8 – The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reported that in spite of a decrease in work zone crashes in Texas last year, 161 people still lost their lives and another 684 were seriously injured, with the vast majority of those killed—84 percent—being motorists and/or their passengers. The announcement was part of TxDOT’s Be Safe. Drive Smart. campaign which reminds motorists to stay alert and exercise caution when driving through work zones.
 
April 5 – JUSTIA US Law reported that the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that the 45-day deadline to seek judicial review of a decision by an appeals panel of the DWC, is mandatory, it is not jurisdictional.
 
April 4 – WorkCompCentral.com reported that a bill, HB 733, that would let doctors barred before 2007 seek reinstatement to workers’ compensation system has been filed by Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington). Passage of the bill would automatically allow the pre-2007 physicians to begin treating injured workers. (Purchase of article or subscription required to read the article)


Note: ICT is tracking and reporting on workers’ compensation and other property and casualty legislation. A workers’ compensation legislative update will be published on the members only portion of our website and distributed to our members next week.
 
Our members only legislative updates can be found here. (Log-in required)
 

National News
 
April 29 – Preferred Medical announced a new webinar series: Preferred Perspectives that will kick off on May 8. The first webinar is entitled “Is CBD a game changer?” to be presented by Mark Pew, Preferred Medical’s senior vice president of product development and marketing. The webinar will take a look at CBD, or cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis touted as a panacea by some and panned as snake oil by others. Online registration for the webinar is available here.
 
April 28 – WorkersCompensation.com reported that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka cautioned the public not to become “numb” to workplace fatalities and illnesses, as his organization released its annual report detailing the hazards workers face every day. The report was published April 25 during Workers' Memorial Week (April 22-29) and features state and federal data on worker fatalities, injuries and illnesses, as well as on worker protections.
 
April 24 – The Insurance Journal reported that workers’ compensation claims in Colorado’s cannabis industry is not as high as thought. Pinnacol Assurance, the state’s largest workers’ comp provider, has released an analysis of claims data for 2018 that shows roughly 350 Coloradans working in cannabis retail, cultivation, manufacturing, clerical support and transportation were injured on the job.
 
April 23 – The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) released the latest set of state studies, updating policymakers and stakeholders on trends and cost drivers in 18 individual states. The study noted that in Texas, the average total cost of a workers’ compensation claim decreased 3 percent per year from 2015 to 2017, driven by a decrease in medical payments per claim and stable indemnity benefits per claim, both of which differed from recent trends in many other study states.
 
April 23 – The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) published a marijuana legalization update which provides an overview of the status of marijuana legalization by state, 2019 legislative activity, and insurance company reimbursement issues.
 
April 22 – PR Newswire reported that a new study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine finds that concurrent treatment of chronic pain, depression, and/or anxiety and occupational injuries is associated with large increases in total workers' compensation claim cost and delayed return to work.
 
April 19 – NCCI published its first quarter Quarterly Economics Briefing, The Economic Outlook and Its Impact on Workers Compensation. Among NCCI’s findings were: Employment is forecasted to grow 1.8% in 2019, slowing to 0.9% in 2020, average weekly wage growth is
expected to increase to 4.3% in 2019, various economic indicators point to slowing US economic growth, and the forecasted medical inflation is revised down – below 2% in 2019 but increasing thereafter.
 
April 17 – Business Insurance reported that one in three workers reported using pain relievers with the majority of those on prescriptions drugs and under 5% of workers reported abuse of pain relievers or dependence, according to a study released by the Integrated Benefits Institute.
 
April 17 – WCRI reported that a resource that compares workers’ compensation law across the United States and Canada is now available. The study, Workers’ Compensation Laws as of January 1, 2019, was prepared by WCRI and the International Association of Accident Boards and Commissions can be purchased here for $89. The report is available at no cost to WCRI members.
 
April 17 – WorkCompCentral.com reported that NCCI foresees impact of changes to Medicare E/M Fee Schedule on workers’ compensation healthcare reimbursements. The changes, slated for Jan. 1, 2021, will “collapse” several of the current evaluation and management codes for patient visits, assigning a single payment rate for visits with varying levels of complexity. NCCI has estimated that the changes to the E/M fee schedule will increase workers’ comp physician costs by 1% to 4%, and overall medical costs will rise 0.5% to 1.5%. (Purchase of article or subscription required to read the article)
 
April 12 – WorkCompCentral.com reported that carriers are increasingly suspicious about fraudulent claims, with nearly three-quarters that participated in a 2018 survey saying fraud has increased either significantly or slightly, according to a new study by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. (Purchase of article or subscription required to read the article)
 
April 11 – The Insurance Journal reported that the annual Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index documents the top 10 causes of the most serious workplace injuries – those causing an employee to miss five or more days from work – and ranks them by their direct cost to employers, which consists of medical and lost-wage payments.
 
April 11 – The Insurance Journal reported that states and Congress are questioning pharmacy benefit managers’ role in drug prices. PBMs, which administer drug claims for big employers and insurance companies, negotiate prices with both retail drugstores and pharmaceutical manufacturers. A trade association for the industry said PBM bargaining power helps lower costs by an average of $941 per patient annually. Numerous competing benefit managers allow clients to negotiate a desired level of transparency.
 
April 5 – Business Insurance reported that several state legislatures are considering bills that expand first responder protections. Lawmakers in several states are considering bills that would require workers comp to cover post-traumatic stress disorder for first responders, expand the medical presumptions for diseases and cancers suffered by firefighters, and expand protections for volunteer firefighters and increase the maximum amount of burial expenses.  
 
April 1 – The Insurance Journal reported that insurers aren’t rushing to transform their workers’ comp approach for gig workers. Instead, they are contemplating mixed data on the gig economy’s size and impact and are waiting for court and legislative decisions to establish clarity before making monumental changes.
 
On April 11, ICT held our 2019 Workers’ Compensation Seminar which had a record attendance and record number of sponsors. For a list of attendees, sponsors, and photos from the event go to
https://ict2019workcompseminar.org/.
 
ICT would like to thank the sponsors of the seminar:







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