Tag Archives: Texas. Oklahoma

Workers’ Comp Opt-Out Goes Under US Microscope

Laws that allow employers in Texas and Oklahoma to opt out of the states’ workers comp systems could be subject to federal oversight, according to an article today in Business Insurance.com,  amid concerns about their effect on injured workers’ access to benefits and care and potential discrimination against employees who report workplace injuries and illnesses.

The article by Gloria Gonzalez, stated that last October, several Congressmen  wrote to the U.S. Department of Labor asking for a report on how it would re-institute oversight of state workers comp systems.

The department annually tracked states’ compliance with recommended federal standards from 1972 to 2004, following an investigation by ProPublica Inc. and National Public Radio into state workers comp programs, the article reported. (Both ProPublica and NPR reports were previously cited by myself and others in earlier posts)

Ms. Gonzalez wrote that the letter also asked whether the department needed additional authority to protect injured workers’ rights and prevent cost shifting to taxpayers via programs such as Social Security.

Chris Mandel, senior vice president of strategic solutions at Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. in Nashville, was quoted as asking, “Is that a prelude to federalization?”

His question came Tuesday at the Business Insurance Rick Management Summit, and his reply to his own question was, “Who knows?  But let’s just say they’re not happy with what they see.”

What does this mean to you?

It means Uncle Sam is watching, and he does not like what he sees going on with the expansion of opt-out legislation. Some of us already don’t like it and have not drunk the kool-aid just yet.

Let’s hope for the sake of injured workers that the feds do take a look under the microscope at the promises of opt-out and they find bacteria that can bring down the entire system, leaving injured workers where their great-grandfathers were before workers’ comp existed…out in the cold and out of luck if they got hurt.

Texas State House Seeks to Change Rules for Workers’ Comp

As reported this morning by Elena Mejia in the Houston Chronicle, members of a Texas State House committee are calling for major reforms to that state’s workers’ compensation program that would change coverage rules that now leave thousands of workers uninsured.

Yesterday, the House Committee on Business and Industry questioned state Insurance Department officials at length about employers who are now failing to provide coverage and continuing complaints about the state’s designated-doctor program.

Texas was the first and only state to allow employers to opt-out of the statutory workers’ comp system until Oklahoma passed legislation, that has since been ruled unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission.

Testimony given before the committee indicated that participation by physicians in the Designated Doctor Program, in which state-approved doctors examine injured workers to decide claims in disputed cases, has dropped precipitously.

According to Stephen Norwood of the Texas Orthopedic Association, participation is down 67 percent, mostly because the state does not reimburse physicians enough for expenses to travel to remote locations.

Mr. Norwood stated that, “All this time away and expense often unexpectedly to remote locations doesn’t make it feasible for physicians to participate,”… “If you allowed proper specialists to evaluate several workers during same travel, you increase access of workers to more appropriate exams and more efficiency to physicians.”

This testimony caught my eye, as generally, I don’t write specifically about one state, but take an overall, big picture view of the issues surrounding workers’ comp and discuss how medical travel can be implemented to relieve those issues.

This would be a perfect scenario for such implementation, so that injured workers in remote parts of Texas can get their treatment in Mexico that may be less expensive to travel to, rather than to have physicians to take the time and expense to travel to those remote locations.

But I suspect that that solution will elude the Texas legislators like so many other issues have eluded them, such as allowing women the right to have abortions, or the right of all workers to be covered under a mandatory state workers’ comp system that is fair to both injured workers and their employers.

But that would be asking too much of them. Sort of like asking the village idiot from Texas to not think about going to war in two countries at the same time.

 

WCRI: Day One, Part Two: The 1st Opt-Out Session

The afternoon of WCRI’s 2016 Annual Conference was devoted to Opt-Out. The first of two sessions was a Point-Counterpoint exercise. Trey Gillespie of the Property & Casualty Association o…

Source: WCRI: Day One, Part Two: The 1st Opt-Out Session

No mention of Koch Brothers involvement and that of ARAWC, so opt-out is just a cop-out for employers.