Category Archives: South Carolina

ARAWC Strikes Again: Opt-out Rolls On

“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”

Michael Corleone, Godfather, Part III

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/Mamzeltt/famous-movie-quotes/

When Michael confronts Connie and Neri in the kitchen of his townhouse, he warns them to never give an order to kill someone again (in this case, it was Joey Zaza), and goes on to state that when he thought he had left the mob lifestyle, they pull him back.

Thus, is the case with opt-out, as I discussed in my last post on the subject.

Kristen Beckman, in today’s Business Insurance, reminds us that opt-out, like the Mob, is pulling us back into the conversation.

As I reported last time, a bill in Arkansas, Senate Bill 653, pending in that state’s legislature’s Insurance & Commerce Committee since the beginning of March, proposes an alternative to the state system.

Ms. Beckman quotes Fred C. Bosse (not Fred C. Dobbs), the southwest region vice president of the American Insurance Association (AIA), who said that the bill is an attempt to keep the workers comp opt-out conversation going.

Mr. Bosse said that the AIA takes these bills seriously (good for them) and engages legislators to dissuade progress of such legislation the AIA believes could create an unequal benefit system for employees. (They haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid either)

Arkansas’ bill is the only legislation currently under consideration, but a state Rep in Florida, Cord Byrd (there’s a name for you), a Republican (it figures) from Jacksonville Beach, promoted legislation last year, but never filed it.

South Carolina and Tennessee, where bills were previously introduced within the past two years has gone nowhere.

And once again ARAWC rears its ugly head. For those of you unfamiliar with ARAWC, or the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation, it is a right-wing lobbying and legislation writing group based in Reston, Virginia. (see several other posts on ARAWC on this blog)

A statement ARAWC sent to BI said that these bills are beginning to pop up organically to model benefits that companies have seen from Texas’ non-subscription model. (Organically? That’s like saying mushroom clouds organically popped up over Hiroshima and Nagasaki)

Here’s a laugh for you, straight from the ARAWC statement:

Outcomes and benefits for injured workers have improved, employers are more competitive when costs are contained and taxpayers are well served by market-driven solutions,” They further said, “We recognize that each state is different and that the discussions at the state level will involve varied opinions.”

Of course, we cannot really know if injured workers are benefitting, or just being denied their rights, and it seems that opt-out is only to help employers and taxpayers get out of their responsibility to those who sustain serious injuries while employed.

In another post, the notion that Texas’ system could serve as a model for other states was outlined in a report by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (don’t you just love the names of these reactionary groups?)

Bill Minick, president of PartnerSource, praised the report, according to Ms. Beckman, and said that competition has driven down insurance premium rates and improved benefits for Texas workers. (That’s what he says, but is any of it true, I wonder? I doubt it.)

ARAWC has listed a laundry list of benefits they say responsible alternative comp laws could provide:

  • Better wage replacement
  • Reduced overall employer costs
  • Faster return to work
  • Fewer claims disputes (yeah, because they would be denied)
  • Faster claim payouts
  • Faster closure (well, when you deny claims, they can be closed faster, duh!)

It is good to know that the AIA is critical of the report, and that in their opinion, it is unworkable to allow employers to adopt a separate, but unequal system of employee benefits.

And as we have seen with the defeat of the AHCA, leaving a government-sponsored program up to market-driven forces is a recipe for disaster that should not be repeated in workers’ comp, no matter what flavor the Kool-Aid comes in.

Opt-Out: Here We Go Again

Once again, we have to look at the issue of opt-out. This time in the land of Lincoln.

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

Abraham Lincoln

Yet, it seems that Capital is still trying to stick it to Labor by dismantling the workers’ comp state systems.

Stephanie Goldberg, writing yesterday in Business Insurance, reported that the Illinois Policy Institute, an organization the Republican Governor, Bruce Rauner, has previously donated to, issued a report last month calling for “updates” [Emphasis added] to the state’s more than 100-year-old system.

The author of the report and the director of the institute’s regulatory reform, Mark Adams, said in an phone interview that, “the system that is in place isn’t serving workers effectively.”

He acknowledged that it is difficult to reform the system because there are so many stakeholders (a point made by myself and others).

Yet, the report goes on to say that, “the most effective way for government to protect workers is not by a restrictive one-size-fits-all system, by by creating broad rules of the game that give workers more freedom to contract with employers for a deal that is better suited to their own situation.”

On the one hand, what the report is stating makes sense, and seems to agree with the idea of opening up the system to new ways of providing care to injured workers, but if we look deeper at the alleged success of opt-out in Texas, Oklahoma, and the failure to get it passed in Tennessee and South Carolina, we find that the proponents of opt-out have not been very up front and honest on the subject.

What they really want is to blow up the entire workers’ comp system nationwide, and take us back to before Triangle, a point they seem to be making quite successfully in some quarters of the work comp industry because of the apolitical and ahistorical atmosphere in which this issue is often discussed.

We recently lost one brave soul who fought the temptation to drink the kool-aid on opt-out, and we cannot let his memory pass without remembering that he was not fully convinced that opt-out had proved itself.

In my last post, I mentioned what happens to closed systems if they do not change. With opt-out, we would not be seeing an opening of the system that still offers protections to injured workers, albeit with more options and more flexibility, but rather a complete and utter destruction of the entire system, which is what ARAWC and the Illinois Policy Institute wants, so that the employer is the one who benefits, not the employee.

Mark Adams stated that the system they have looks like it deals with the 19th Century, and not with telecommuters, or people who balance caring for a child, an elderly relative, and work responsibilities. True, but going back to the 19th Century when workers had to sue for benefits, if they were lucky to get to court, is not the answer.

One reason why opt-out has not been successful outside of Texas and Oklahoma, is as Stephanie Goldberg, says, the potential for constitutional challenges to opt-out laws could give pause to states considering legislation, as what happened in February when the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission ruled that provisions of the state’s Employee Injury Benefit Act deprive workers of equal protection and access to the courts, and to unfairly allow employers to define “injury.” The Supreme Court in Oklahoma is reviewing the case.

One wonders what the old railsplitter would think about the idea to deprive Labor of its rights to equal protection and access to courts, and to benefits they deserve when injured on the job. Lincoln would be horrified to learn that Capital has become superior to Labor.

Trends and Issues in Workers’ Comp for 2016

From the ‘What’s happening now in workers’ comp’ department comes two articles written earlier this month by Jacquelyn Connelly in Independent Agent magazine.

The first, written on February 1, talks about new health care trends driving change for workers’ comp. The second, written a week later, deals with the top three regulatory issues to watch for in workers’ comp in 2016.

Let’s start with the first article.

As Ms. Connelly writes, medical now represents on average, 60% of the benefit dollar paid to injured workers, according to Peter Burton, senior division executive for state relations at NCCI (National Council on Compensation Insurance).

Burton said that, “if you went back 25 years ago, it would have been about 40%,” and he went on to say that, “medical is the largest component in most states of the benefit given to injured workers. If you looked at the amount of legislative pricing requested of NCCI during last year, the majority of the requests were medical-related.”

In my White Paper, I cited that “medical costs in 2008 were 58% of all total claims.”

One explanation Ms. Connelly gives is rising and shifting medical costs.  According to Donna Urben, vice president and workers’ compensation product manager at Erie Insurance, “the rise in medical costs, we’ve all seen it on typical health plans and we’ve also seen it on workers’ comp.” She goes further to say that, “what helps with the control of the increase in medical costs are those states that actually are able to direct medical care.”

Some state workers’ comp laws state that injured workers must go to panel physician established by the employer for a timeframe that is mandated by state guidelines, according to Ms. Urben.

If the injured workers receives medical care that fits the injury,” says Ms. Urben, “that ultimately gets them back to pre-injury status and enables them to return to work more quickly,”…”this explains why in some states that permit direction of care, employers are able to see a reduction in the claim cost on the medical claims side, versus those states that don’t permit direction of care, employers see a greater volatility in the medical costs from a workers’ compensation claim.

Another reason given by Ms. Connelly for the rise of medical costs is the duration of treatment.

Medical costs could also transform under the ACA, says Yvonne Hobson, vice president of corporate underwriting at Amerisure, and could cause some cost-shifting in workers’ comp insurance, by authorizing the use of capitation models that designate a set amount for each enrolled plan member, regardless of whether they take medical during that time.

This is not the first time we have seen this issue of cost-shifting and the ACA come up, as I and others have written about it last year.

Hobson explains that, “there are some injuries, such as soft tissue injures or back or knee or shoulder pain, where the cause of the injury isn’t readily apparent if it happened on the job or outside of work.” There is some discretion on the part of the doctors, Ms. Hobson states, when determining if the injury is work-related or not.

On the other hand, Matt Lyon, of Foremost Insurance Group, cited some predictions that the ACA could reduce the frequency of “Monday morning claims”, where someone gets hurt on the weekend, they don’t have health insurance, and come into work on Monday and file a workers’ comp claim, Ms. Connelly writes.

Mr. Lyon noted that some preliminary studies suggest a slight correlation between the ACA and a decline in fraudulent comp claims.

Ms. Hobson concurs, and stated that, “the challenge with cost-shifting is that the research and the data on it is new, so only time is going to be able to tell us how it’s going to ultimately be impacting workers’ compensation costs.

The final trend, Ms. Connelly mentions is the misuse and abuse of opioids and medical marijuana. I have discussed the opioid abuse issue before, so I will not go into that here, and the other trend is medical marijuana, as well as recreational use.

States such as Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington have allowed recreational use, and 23 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized medical marijuana.

In her second article, Ms. Connelly identifies three regulatory issues. These issues are:

  1. Opt-out laws. Currently, as I have written about, opt-out is only in Texas and Oklahoma, but it was reported recently that the legislation in Tennessee has not passed this year, and maybe voted on again next year. Other states proposed for this legislation are Arkansas, North and South Carolina and West Virginia. The group behind the writing of this legislation is called “A-rock” (ARAWC).
  2. Reform efforts. Peter Burton, cited by Ms. Connelly in the last article, said that insurance agents need to be wary of the “attack on the exclusive remedy”. I have also written about this; yet, my research for this article has found that the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), a right-wing, non-profit organization partly funded by the Castor and Pollux of right-wing, libertarianism, the Koch Brothers has drawn up a bill defending exclusive remedy, which I find puzzling, because I would have thought that they would want to let workers try to sue their employers, which is what happened before the enactment of workers’ comp laws.
  3. Independent contractor classification. The Department of Labor’s Administrator’s interpretation sought to classify most independent contractors as employees.

What does this mean?

For workers’ comp, it means that there are challenges ahead that the industry needs to be aware of, but it also means that business as usual will no longer suffice, nor will doing the same things over and over again, and expecting different results.

As we have seen in Ms. Connelly’s first article, medical costs are rising for workers’ comp claims. She does not mention whether or not this includes expensive surgeries, or is just confined to the immediate treatment of the injury and the subsequent process of returning the injured worker to their pre-injury state.

Some employers have seen reductions in medical costs, but overall, the medical costs keep rising, as evidenced by my White Paper that stated that in 2008, the percentage was 58%. Two percentage points in seven years.

Obviously, something or some things are not working. But as long as the industry ignores alternatives, as long as some people suggest that judges won’t order surgery out of the country (do doctors order executions, I wonder?), as long as these same individuals believe that no injured workers (especially Latino workers) will want to or will accept going abroad for surgery, and as long as the “old men” of the industry cling to xenophobia, racism and American Exceptionalism, holding back the workers’ compensation industry from joining the globalization of health care, comp included, then nothing will change, and costs will continue to rise.

Lastly, it is state laws themselves that need to be changed, modified or outright discarded so that employers across the country can realize huge cost savings in their medical claim costs, when their employees need surgery.

To say this will never happen is like saying Man will never fly, go to the Moon, or any of a thousand other “impossible” things we humans have accomplished. Are you saying that going to the Moon or flying is easier than going to another country to get surgery? Or are you just being xenophobic, racist, and delusional that American health care is the best?

You decide, but while you do, the meter is running on medical costs, and the other issues, such as opt-out, reform and job classification are making workers’ comp challenging now and for the future. But it does not have to be that way.

Pushback on ARAWC’s Attempt to Expand Opt-Out To Tennessee

David Fish wrote an opinion piece last week in The Leaf-Chronicle that stated there is no need to change that state’s workers’ comp program, as had been discussed previously by numerous bloggers, including yours truly, and that ARAWC has been advocating, by actually writing the legislation for Tennessee and South Carolina.

It is such an excellent article, and makes the point so clearly, that I am going to let David Fish speak for himself.

Here is the link:

http://www.theleafchronicle.com/story/opinion/readers/2016/01/22/opinion-no-need-change-workers-comp-program/79164208/

Challenges Facing Work Comp

In three weeks, members of the medical tourism industry will gather in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to attend the 6th Mexico Medical Tourism Congress.

You may recall that I was invited and attended the Congress last year, and was invited again this year. However, due to personal and financial reasons, I am not attending this year.

I am however, posting my PowerPoint presentation below for your viewing, with narration by yours truly. I hope you find it interesting and informative.

Challenges Facing Workers’ Comp (PowerPoint)

Challenges Facing Workers’ Comp (video)

 

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid Just Yet

While the Tennessee Legislature has put the issue of opt-out on hold for this year, the South Carolina Legislation is moving ahead with opt-out, according to James Moore’s blog piece today.

David De Paolo and I have both come close to drinking the Kool-Aid on opt-out expansion, but until there is transparency and real data that opt-out offers employers and employees better medical care, opt-out is just another right-wing, anti-worker, pro-business scheme that will take this country back, quoting Grover Norquist, back to the 19th century, when workers had no rights when they got hurt, and had to sue for benefits, if they were lucky to get to court.

It figures that the state that seceded from the Union first, would jump on the opt-out bandwagon.

As I said last week, it’s a double edged sword; only one edge is up against the throat of the American worker.

For opt-out to be truly worthwhile, it has to prove it is better than what we have now, with all that we know about the high cost and abusive practices of certain bad actors, but it also has to provide the injured worker with the opportunity to get medical care where the cost is lower, the quality is better, and is offered as an option.

Given that opt-out’s biggest proponents are funding the organization called ARAWC (A-Rock), there will be many who will oppose or question the push towards opt-out expansion nationwide.

There has to be a better way to lower the cost of medical care in workers’ comp than doing it on the backs of injured workers. In other words, don’t drink the Kool-Aid just yet.

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I am willing to work with any broker, carrier, or employer interested in saving money on expensive surgeries, and to provide the best care for their injured workers or their client’s employees.

Call me for more information, next steps, or connection strategies at (561) 738-0458 or (561) 603-1685, cell. Email me at: richard_krasner@hotmail.com. Ask me any questions you may have on how to save money on expensive surgeries under workers’ comp. Connect with me on LinkedIn and follow my blog at: richardkrasner.wordpress.com. Share this article, or leave a comment below.