The Workers’ Comp News Digest is a monthly news clipping service provided by the Insurance Council of Texas to our members. Your February 2019 news digest follows:
 
Texas News
 
February 28 – The Texas Department of Insurance, DWC's Research and Evaluation Group announced the release of the 2018 analysis of trends in employer participation in the Texas Workers' Compensation System.
 
February 25 – WorkersCompensation.com reported that a federal jury has convicted a 50-year-old internal medicine doctor and 47-year-old hospital owner of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, 17 counts of health care fraud and three counts of money laundering, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick and Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Department of Justice's Criminal Division. The jury deliberated for less than four hours following a two-week trial before convicting Dr. Harcharan Narang and Dayakar Moparty.
 
February 20 – The Insurance Journal reported that a Texas woman owes just over $46,000 to the state’s largest workers’ compensation insurance carrier after being sentenced for workers’ compensation fraud in a Travis County district court. The woman was convicted for working while receiving income benefits after reporting that she was injured on the job and could not work.
 
February 19 – WorkCompCentral reported that NCCI says insurance carriers that assume coverage for Texas self-insurers do not need to include the company's experience when determining premiums in most cases. (Purchase of article or subscription required to read the article)
 
February 14 – The Insurance Journal reported that an indoor gun range in Killeen, Texas, has been cited by OSHA and fined more than $214,000 for exposing employees to unsafe levels of lead.
 
February 13 – Texas Department of Insurance announced that Texas Mutual Insurance Company has asked Insurance Commissioner Kent Sullivan to repeal an order that will eliminate Classification Code 0923, used for household domestic servants. An order approved by Commissioner David C. Mattax in November 2016 eliminated the 0923 code.
 
February 12 – InsuranceNewsNet.com reported that Rep. Oscar Longoria (D-Mission), along with 4 other authors, filed House Bill (HB) 1521 which would penalize insurers that illegally deny Texas first responders access to medical treatment for line-of-duty injuries covered under state workers' compensation laws. HB 1521 would clarify that cities do not have sovereign immunity when they act as a workers’ compensation insurance provider.
 
February 11 – The National Law Review reported that the Texas Workforce Commission has proposed rules excluding certain Gig Workers from the definition of “employment” under Texas unemployment laws.
 
February 7 – The Office of the Texas Governor announced that Gov. Greg Abbott reappointed Cassie Brown as Commissioner of Workers' Compensation at the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) for a term set to expire on February 1, 2021.
 
February 7 – DWC announced the release of a new video titled The Benefits of Return to Work. The video reported the following benefits from return to work: injured employees heal faster and keep their benefits, while employers retain skilled employees and reduce their costs.
 
February 6 – The Southern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office reported that a McAllen woman has been charged in a multi-million dollar compound drug kickback conspiracy. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Victoria Renee Guerra allegedly recruited physicians to write prescriptions for expensive compound drugs to be filled by a pharmacy. Guerra was paid approximately $7.5 million in return for compound drug prescriptions written by physicians whom Guerra recruited. She in return paid the physicians money for having written the prescriptions.
 
February 5 – WorkCompCentral reported that a list of top billing workers’ compensation attorneys show fees down slightly.  Seven months ago, the Division of Workers' Compensation posted a memo reminding attorneys that accuracy is important when submitting fees for approval. It also warned that it may take “appropriate enforcement action” for incorrect bills. (Purchase of article or subscription required to read the article)
 
February 4 – KRGV.com, a Rio Grande Valley ABC affiliate, reported that the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters is fighting to change the process for having a state workers' compensation claim for cancer accepted.
 

National News
 
February 28 –National Law Review reported that employers should be prepared for the potential legal problems e-scooters may create. The increasing popularity of these scooters indicates that some employees will, sooner or later, jump on an e-scooter during work hours. Employers should consider providing or mandating safety equipment if the business allows employees to ride e-scooters while on the job.
 
February 25 – WorkCompCentral reported that as a growing number of workplace wearable devices enter the market, some technology companies may be getting a boost in recognition through partnerships with workers’ comp insurance carriers. A recent example is the partnership announced last month between insurer AF Group and MakuSafe, a provider of armbands worn by workers to monitor their surroundings. (Purchase of article or subscription required to read the article)
 
February 25 – KDKA, a Pittsburgh CBS affiliate, reported that the FBI is investigating an alleged nationwide business insurance fraud scheme. The American Labor Alliance and two of its executives are accused of selling what was supposed to be workers’ compensation coverage that might not actually offer any coverage.
 
February 22 – Business Insurance reported a bill aimed at reducing workplace violence incidents against health care and social service employees has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Free subscription required to read the article)
 
February 21 – The Dailey Yonder reported that according to a recent WCRI study, injured workers in rural areas are more likely to receive prescriptions for opioids.
 
February 19 – Business Insurance reported that injured workers are more likely to file workers compensation claims when they have high-deductible group health plans, according to a study released by the Workers Compensation Research Institute.
 
February 15 – Risk & Insurance reported medical-marijuana acceptance is increasing, while obstacles to medical marijuana continue to exist. One of the remaining obstacles is that physicians and insurers lack the research and dosing guidance to accommodate marijuana’s prescribing and claim payments. Marijuana remaining illegal under federal law is another obstacle.
 
February 8 – WorkersCompensation.com reported on How Safe Is Your Job? Workplace Violence on the Rise. Robert Wilson, president and CEO of WorkersCompensation.com and a frequent speaker about workplace violence, reported that the economic cost of workplace violence exceeds $120 billion yearly. Some 2 million workers are victims of workplace violence each year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  The FBI reports that 80 percent of active shootings occur in the workplace.
 
February 7 – Risk & Insurance reported on McKinsey & Company’s look at the numerous ways that Artificial Intelligence will change commercial insurance by 2030. The article notes four major trends that are impacting commercial insurance: increased data from connected devices; increased prevalence of robotics; open source data; and advancements in cognitive technologies.

February 6 – WorkCompCentral reported that pharmacy benefit managers and other stakeholders are keeping a wary eye on a Trump administration plan to effectively end manufacturers' rebates for PBMs that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. They're worried that the policy could encourage states to follow suit with similar requirements for workers' compensation programs. (Purchase of article or subscription required to read the article)
 
February 4 – PropertyCasualty360.com reported that carriers working with marijuana companies still face legal and regulatory challenges — despite the booming marijuana legalization movement. (Free subscription required to read the article)

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