88th Texas Legislative Session Underway

88th Texas Legislative Session Underway

The regular session of the 88th Texas Legislature was gaveled into session at noon on Tuesday, Jan. 10, for its 140-day biennial meeting. The session will end on May 29, 2023. Republicans continue to control both chambers, with an 86-64 majority in the Texas House and a 19-12 majority in the Senate. In his constitutional role, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, will preside over the Senate. By a vote of 145-3, State Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) was elected to his second term as speaker of the House.

Republicans have selected state Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth) as chair of the Republican caucus, and Democrats selected state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer to lead the Democratic caucus.

The 88th Legislature has the highest number of women lawmakers in at least the last five sessions, with 46 of the 150 House members being women; eight of the 31 senators are women.

About 62% of lawmakers in both the House and Senate are Anglo, despite Anglo Texans making up about 40% of the state’s population. Close to 24% of lawmakers are Hispanic, even though Hispanics make up about 40% of the population, and by some estimates outnumber white Texans. African-American lawmakers make up 9% of the Legislature, whereas African-American Texans are 13% of the state’s population. Asian-American lawmakers account for 3% of the Legislature, while Asian-American Texans make up 6% of the state.

Lawmakers begin the session flush with revenue, with $188 billion available to fund state operations for Texas’ 2024-25 biennium, according to State Comptroller Glenn Hegar. That includes an unprecedented $32 billion surplus left over from the previous biennium, primarily the result of higher gas prices.

Pre-filing of legislation began on Nov. 14, 2022, with legislators able to file bills until the 60th day of the session, March 10, 2023, after which permission must be granted by their respective chambers to introduce legislation. During the 87th regular session (2021), lawmakers introduced a total of 9,999 bills and resolutions, and adopted 3,803 of them, 21 of which were vetoed by the governor.

Bills of interest that have been filed include:

HB 351 (Bell) — Relating to the provision of workers’ compensation insurance and group accident and health insurance together in a packaged plan. 

HB 778 (Walle)/SB 283 (Eckhardt) — Relating to required provision of workers’ compensation.

HB 826 (Lambert) — Relating to modification of certain prescription drug benefits and coverage offered by certain health benefit plans. 

HB 1240 (Oliverson) — Relating to the authority of a physician to provide and dispense and to delegate authority to provide and dispense certain drugs.

Survey Identifies Top Concerns of Workers’ Comp Managers Heading Into 2023

Workers’ compensation (W.C.) executives are concerned about the economy, medical inflation, the shifting workplace, and rate adequacy, according to the latest survey from the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).

NCCI recently surveyed 100 workers’ compensation executives to identify key issues for the system in 2023. Respondents noted that uncertainty involving the labor market, an economic slowdown or recession, interest rates, and investment returns all point to a challenging economic landscape for carriers.

Carriers also noted concerns about the rising cost of medical treatments, especially due to continuous advancements in medical technology and treatments. When carriers do not see an associated rise in premium rates, it can be disconcerting if rates and costs get too far out of sync.

Carriers also cited trends in the changing workforce. In a tight labor market, some employers are forced to hire inexperienced workers with less focus on safety training, and push seasoned workers to work additional hours. According to NCCI, survey respondents were concerned how this could affect the frequency and severity of on-the-job injuries.

Additionally, changes in work patterns following the pandemic are creating work environments with which the industry has little experience. Carriers are waiting for new data to gain answers to questions such as: How much lower is injury frequency for employees who are working from home? What new W.C. risks are there when working from home? How will payroll and premiums be impacted, as well as the classifications of workers?

Although premium rates and loss costs have been declining for years in most states, executives expressed concerns that when the trends that have driven rates down for many years eventually turn, the industry may not be able to adequately address rate-level needs.

More information about the survey is available here.

Revised Injury Tracking Regulation Nears Adoption

A proposed regulation that would require more organizations to submit annual injury and illness tracking to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has moved one step closer to being adopted.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fall 2022 regulatory agenda, published Jan. 4, the proposal has moved to the final phase of rule-making before it can become a regulation. A decision could come as early as March.

The proposed new rule would require establishments with 100 or more employees in designated industries to submit Forms 300, 301 and 300A annually. Currently, only establishments with 250 or more employees are required to submit the forms.

Additionally, firms with 20-plus employees in certain high-hazard industries must submit Form 300A. That would remain unchanged under the proposed new rule.

The deadline to submit Form 300A for fiscal year 2022 is March 2, 2023.

Meanwhile, OSHA’s maximum penalties for serious and other-than-serious violations have increased to $15,625 per violation in 2023, from $14,502 the year prior. The maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations increased to $156,259 per violation, from $145,027. The increases are intended to reflect inflation.

DOL Inspector General Report References Staffing Shortages and Lack of Standard on Infectious Diseases

The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is hampered by a shortage of inspectors and the lack of a permanent standard on infectious diseases aimed at protecting workers in all high-risk industries, according to the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General’s annual report for 2022.

The report notes OSHA’s inspector staffing level has fallen steadily from a high of 860 in 2014 to 750 in 2021. Although the agency’s FY 2022 budget request included funding for 155 new inspectors, it can take up to five years for an inspector to be fully trained.

According to the report, OSHA continues to be hampered by the lack of a permanent standard on infectious diseases aimed at protecting workers in all high-risk industries. While OSHA did issue an emergency temporary standard (ETS) in December 2021 that covered the health care industry only, OSHA substantially withdrew the ETS, retaining only its logging and record-keeping provisions. The report states that without a permanent standard on infectious diseases, OSHA will not be able to effectively protect the safety and health of workers operating in high-risk industries during future pandemics or endemics.

The report recommends OSHA do the following:

  • Work toward a permanent standard to protect workers in all high-risk industries from infectious diseases.
  • Complete its initiatives to improve employer reporting of severe injuries and illnesses.
  • Enhance staff training on hazard abatement verification, especially for smaller and transient construction employers.
  • Explore ways to enhance interagency cooperation and take advantage of inspections being conducted by OSHA’s counterparts in the federal government.

The report is available here.

Survey Focuses on Impact of Mental Health Among Workers

Nearly one-fifth of U.S. workers rate their mental health as fair or poor and are likely to take nearly 12 days of unplanned absences annually, compared with 2.5 days for all other workers, according to a new survey from Gallup. This missed work is estimated to cost the economy $47.6 billion annually in lost productivity.

The survey results were obtained Aug. 23-Sept. 7, 2022, and are based on 15,809 U.S. working adults surveyed on the internet as a part of the Gallup Panel, a probability-based, non-opt-in panel of about 115,000 adults across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Women (23%) are more likely to report poor or fair mental health than are men (15%). Nearly one-third of young workers under the age of 30 (31%) do the same, compared with 11% of those aged 50-64 and 9% of those aged 65 and over.

According to the survey, 40% of U.S. workers report that their job has an extremely negative (7%) or somewhat negative (33%) impact on their mental health. That compares with 30% who report an extremely positive (7%) or somewhat positive (23%) impact.

More than half (57%) of the workers who report their job has a negative impact on their mental health are unable to confirm the existence of easily accessible mental health support services in their workplace — 24% report the absence of these services, and another 33% are unaware if they are available through their employer.

More information about the survey is available here.

Best Practices Resource Developed for Keeping Temporary Workers Safe

Studies show temporary workers experience higher on-the-job injury rates compared to permanent (nontemporary) workers. However, a newly developed set of best practices for employers was recently released to help host employers keep temporary workers safe.

The free resource, “Protecting Temporary Workers: Best Practices for Host Employers,” was developed by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the National Occupational Research Agenda, Services Sector Council, the American Society of Safety Professionals, the American Staffing Association, and the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention program within Washington state’s Department of Labor and Industries. The document can be used across industries and occupations and provides vital information on:

  • Evaluating and addressing workplace safety and health in a written contract.
  • Training for temporary workers and their worksite supervisors.
  • Reporting, responding to and record-keeping of temporary worker injuries and illnesses.

The document also includes checklists that can be printed or completed electronically and scenarios illustrating how the best practices might be implemented. A slide deck that staffing companies can use to educate their host employer clients about the best practices is also available.

According to the agencies that created the document, it is not meant to replace formal elements of an occupational safety and health program or legal requirements. The agencies suggest the best practices referenced may need to be modified based on specific cases.

“Protecting Temporary Workers: Best Practices for Host Employers” is available here.


A Survey of COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance Across 23 Countries in 2022
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic persists despite reductions in disease severity, hospitalizations and deaths since the introduction of multiple vaccines that protect against COVID-19 and pharmaceuticals to treat its symptoms. Click here for full article.

Health Experts Warn of Another COVID Wave
The dizzying spread of the newest Omicron variant XBB.1.5 — also nicknamed Kraken — has public health experts warning of yet another potential COVID wave in the U.S. Click here for full article.

CBS News
COVID-19 Vaccines: From Nasal Drops to a Redesign, What 2023 Could Have in Store
Several vaccine companies say they are expecting breakthroughs as early as this year as they pursue new ways to protect people against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Click here for full article.

Omicron COVID Booster Cuts Hospitalization in Over 65s, Israeli Study Finds
The Omicron-adapted COVID-19 vaccine booster developed by Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE) sharply reduced hospitalizations among older patients, Israeli researchers said on Monday, in some of the first evidence of the jab’s real-world effectiveness. Click here for full article.

Muscle Aches, Pains Now Among Top COVID Symptoms
According to ZOE Health Study (a health science company staking claim to running the “world’s largest COVID science project with over four million participants”), their latest data finds that the top symptoms reported by contributors with positive COVID tests are… Click here for full article.

Biden Administration Extends COVID Public Health Emergency as Highly Infectious Omicron XBB.1.5 Spreads
The Biden administration has extended the Covid-19 public health emergency until April as a highly transmissible omicron subvariant stokes concern that the U.S. may face another wave of hospitalizations from the disease this winter. Click here for full article.

The Washington Post
Pentagon Ends COVID Vaccine Mandate
The Pentagon on Tuesday rescinded its order that all military personnel receive a coronavirus vaccine, a move that senior leaders opposed. Click here for full article.

EHS Daily Advisor
OSHA Proceeding with Healthcare Rulemakings
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will proceed with three rulemakings focused on the healthcare industry—standards for COVID-19, infectious diseases, and workplace violence—the Department of Labor (DOL) announced as part of the fall 2022 unified regulatory agenda unveiled January 4. Click here for full article.

Property Casualty 360
How COVID-19 Affected Workers’ Compensation Subrogation
The impact of COVID can be felt everywhere and that is certainly true in the world of workers’ compensation insurance and subrogation. Click here for full article.

Risk & Insurance
COVID Did Not Send Shockwaves Through Workers’ Comp in 2021, but Policy Fluctuations May Still Come. Here’s Why
The annual Workers’ Compensation Fiscal Data Research Bulletin showing state workers’ compensation system payments and costs from 2011 to 2020 has been released by the National Foundation for Unemployment Compensation and Workers’ Compensation. Click here for full article.

Texas News

Austin Business Journal
Texas Mutual Launches Subsidiary Focused on Small Business Health Insurance
Texas Mutual Insurance has hired a former Seton executive to lead a new subsidiary that will offer health insurance options to small businesses. Click through to learn more. Click here for full article. 

State News

Insurance Journal
Doctors, Insurers Clash on Florida Workers’ Comp Physician Dispensing Rules
Physician dispensing of medications has long been a flash point in workers’ compensation insurance, with at least 22 states regulating or restricting the practice. Florida is no exception to the controversy, and stakeholders on both sides of the issue joined renewed debate last week with testimony from injured workers, doctors, lawyers and insurance industry representatives. Click here for full article. 

Kansas Reflector
Kansas Workers’ Compensation System Has Gone from First to Worst. We Can Fix It.
Workers’ compensation is designed to provide protection for workers injured on the job. Kansas workers and their families have less protection than most in America. The great irony is that Kansas was one of the first states to enact a workers’ compensation system in 1911. Click here for full article.

Insurance Journal
Massachusetts to Weigh Proposed 4% Cut in Workers’ Compensation Rates
The Massachusetts insurance department will hear testimony virtually on February 3 regarding a proposed 4.0% decrease in average workers’ compensation rates. Click here for full article.

NH Business Review
Bill Would Expand Workers’ Comp Cancer Presumption for NH Firefighters
Legislation filed in the New Hampshire Senate would make all types of cancer among firefighters a presumptive occupational disease eligible for workers’ compensation. Click here for full article.

JD Supra
Workers’ Compensation Cases to Consider in 2023
In the past two years, there have been many interesting and impactful appellate decisions in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation law. Click here for full article.

Safety Shelved: Federal Safety Inspectors Again Find Dollar General Workers Exposed to Fire, Other Hazards – This Time in West Lafayette, Ohio
Following yet another inspection – this time at a West Lafayette, Ohio, Dollar General location – federal investigators found one of the nation’s largest discount retailers continues to shelve serious safety concerns that expose workers and others to the dangers of blocked emergency exits and electrical panels, and boxes of merchandise stacked at unsafe heights. Click here for full article.

Deadly Mix: Federal Workplace Safety Investigations Find Severe Injuries, Fatality Caused by Steam Explosions at 2 Ohio Companies
With proper training, people working in metal casting facilities know that mixing water and molten material can be a serious, if not deadly mistake, as tragic incidents at two Ohio companies in 2022 showed. Click here for full article.

Insurance Journal
Vermont Workers’ Compensation Rates to Fall Again
Vermont businesses will see another rate decrease in workers’ compensation insurance in 2023. This will mark the seventh consecutive year of rate reductions. Click here for full article.

Industry News

Business Insurance
Largest Workers Compensation Insurers
Presented is a list of top ten workers compensation insurers by market share percentage. Click here for full article. 

Insurance Business Amerca
What’s Contributing to the Rise in One Sector’s Workers’ Comp Claims?
Staffing shortages, turnover and new hires led to a significant spike in workers’ comp claims in restaurants as the industry reawakened after COVID-19 lockdowns, according to a report from AmTrust Financial Services. Click here for full article.

2023 Marks Critical Milestone for Workers Compensation
Policymakers and insurers are marking an important milestone this year—the 100–year anniversary of the creation of the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). This occasion serves as an important reminder of how workers compensation supports worker health and safety and bolsters economic growth. Click here for full article.

Safety + Health
Workers’ Comp Study Finds Use of ERs for Initial Treatment Varies State to State
The percentages of injured workers who visited an ER – instead of physician offices or urgent care clinics, which are less costly alternatives – for their initial medical treatment varied across 28 states, according to a recent study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute. Click here for full article.

2022 Predictions for Workers’ Comp – How’d I Do?
Proving I never learn, we return to score how I did on my 2022 predictions for workers’ comp… Click here for full article.