OSHA Form 300A Due March 2
Employers are reminded that they have until March 2 to electronically submit their required Form 300A accident and injury tracking information for calendar year 2021.
Not all establishments are required to submit OSHA 300A data. Electronic submissions are required for establishments with 250 or more employees currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records, and establishments with 20-249 employees classified in specific industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses. A list of industries with historically high incident rates is available here.
More information about the injury tracking application is available here.
Vaccine Mandate for Large Employers Struck Down by SCOTUS
Although the Supreme Court struck down President Biden’s get-vaccinated-or-be-tested mandate for large businesses, an array of other vaccine requirements remain in limbo.
The court ruled the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did not have the authority to issue the vaccinate-or-be-tested mandate for large employers. However, in a separate ruling, the court let stand a vaccine mandate for health care workers in hospitals or nursing homes that receive federal funds. The court ruled the mandate for health care workers could proceed because it was issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under a different legal authority.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in Texas has issued an injunction barring OSHA from enforcing a vaccinate-or-be-tested mandate for federal employees. The judge cited the Supreme Court decision to strike down the mandate for large employers as the basis for his ruling. The Justice Department has appealed this ruling. Earlier, a Georgia judge issued an injunction barring the enforcement of a vaccine mandate for federal contractors. An appeals court in December rejected a Justice Department request to reinstate the mandate.
Texas Army National Guard members are affected by a Biden administration vaccine mandate, although Gov. Greg Abbott has sued the Biden administration over the requirement and said that as director of the National Guard, he will not punish guardsmen who do not get the shot. The Pentagon has given Army National Guard members until June 30 to get vaccinated or face consequences such as loss of pay or being marked absent from training. However, because the states and the federal government have dual control over the National Guard, Abbott says he will not allow the state of Texas to enforce the vaccine mandate on guard members. The state has sued to exempt guardsmen from the vaccine mandate. A similar suit by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt was dismissed in December by a federal judge in Oklahoma
In response to the Supreme Court’s action on the employer mandate, the U.S. Department of Labor said it will continue efforts to protect workers by holding businesses accountable under the COVID-19 National Emphasis Program and General Duty Clause.
Federal Law to End Surprise Medical Bills Takes Effect
Oral arguments begin Feb. 4 in a case brought by the Texas Medical Association to change the dispute resolution mechanism of the No Surprises Act, a new law banning most surprise medical charges from out-of-network providers. Other medical groups, including the American College of Radiology and American Medical Association, have also sued over similar concerns.
The No Surprises Act was passed with bipartisan support in 2020 and became effective Jan. 1, 2022. It protects people covered under group and individual health plans from surprise medical bills when they receive most emergency services, nonemergency services from out of-network providers at in-network facilities, and services from out-of-network air ambulance service providers. It establishes an independent dispute resolution process for payment disputes between insurance plans and providers. It also provides new dispute resolution opportunities for uninsured and self-pay individuals.
Previously, if consumers had health coverage and received care from an out-of-network provider, their health plan usually wouldn’t cover the entire out-of-network cost. This is especially common in an emergency, where consumers might not be able to choose the provider. Even if a consumer goes to an in-network hospital, they might get care from out-of-network providers at that facility.
Before the No Surprises Act, the out-of-network provider in many cases could bill consumers for the difference between the charges the provider billed, and the amount paid by the consumer’s health plan. This is known as “balance billing,” and an unexpected balance bill is called a surprise bill. You may click here for a summary of the No Surprises Act from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. An overview created by the Kaiser Family Foundation may be viewed here.
Political Primary Season Heats Up
The March 1 primary is just around the corner, and campaign season is heating up.
Although Gov. Abbott has several high-profile primary challengers, the January campaign finance report shows him far ahead of challengers in contributions, with $9.6 million taken in from July to December, and $65 million in the bank. Beto O’Rourke reported taking in $8.9 million in contributions and having $4.75 million cash on hand.
The hottest primary race is the Republican race for attorney general. Incumbent Ken Paxton has several well-funded challengers, including Land Commissioner George P. Bush and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman. Paxton’s January finance report showed he has $7.5 million on hand, more than double his nearest challenger, but Guzman outraised him during that period. Paxton won reelection in 2018 by less than 4%.
To gauge the partisan alignment of Texas’ new districts under the new redistricting maps, the Texas Politics Project has prepared an analysis of each district based on how many votes Trump and Biden would have each received there under the old and new district lines. You can view the analysis here: House | Senate | Congress
One widely noted result of the new maps is to reduce the number of competitive districts at both the state and federal levels. These are districts where there is a reasonable chance of the seat switching from one party to the other. The upshot is that apart from retirements and primary upsets, there will likely not be much turnover in membership once the elections are over. It remains to be seen if the courts will act on the numerous lawsuits that have been filed challenging the new district lines.
The number of state senators and representatives who have announced they’re leaving office seems high, but analysis by the Texas Politics Project at UT Austin shows that it is in line with normal turnover rates, which from 1986 to present averaged about 30 seats per session. At the end of the filing season this past December, the turnover rate was about 16%. While the number is likely to increase due to primary and general election losses, it has a long way to go to match the record turnover numbers set in 1992 (45 seats) and 2010 (46 seats).
The new rules for mail-in voting applications under SB1 are leading to a high rejection rate in some counties. The rejection rate is estimated at 40% in Dallas & Tarrant Counties and 28% in Denton County. Harris County reports a 35% rejection rate, while Travis and Hidalgo Counties were rejecting nearly half of all applications. By contrast, Travis County rejected just 11% of mail-in voting applications in 2020. The rejection rate in rural counties and mid-sized counties such as Midland, Smith and Taylor is not known at this point. 2020 saw an increase in voting by mail, partly in response to the COVID pandemic. By some estimates, rural voters rely more on mail-in voting than their urban counterparts, so a high rejection rate in those areas might affect Republican turnout in the primary.
Rep. Henry Cuellar’s (D-Laredo) home and campaign office were recently raided by the FBI, which took away numerous boxes of material. The raid was done in connection with an investigation into business matters in Azerbaijan. Cuellar already faces a primary challenge from Jessica Cisneros, who nearly beat him in the 2020 primary. His seat is viewed as a good opportunity for a Republican congressional win in South Texas in the fall, continuing that region’s shift away from the Democratic Party.
- Jan. 31 — Voting registration deadline
- Feb. 14 — First day of in-person early voting
- Feb. 18 — Last day to apply for ballot by mail (received, not postmarked)
- Feb. 25 — Last day of in-person early voting
- March 1 — Primary election day
- May 24 — Primary run-off election day
Managing Areas of Increased Employee Risk
Many factors can affect the safety and well-being of employees, but organizations that identify and prepare for risk can reduce the chances of workplace injury and recovery time.
Travelers, an international insurance company with more than 30,000 employees and 13,500 brokers, identifies the following as major evolving risk areas:
- Changing nature of work
- Onboarding employees
- Increasing driver distractions
- Opioid misuse
- Patient care
Travelers notes that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have employees who work remotely, and entire industries use gig or contract workers. It suggests organizations that use contract workers or have employees working from home should ensure their work environment is safe and appropriate for the expected job duties performed.
Travelers also reminds employers that workers in their first year on the job account for a disproportionate number of workers’ compensation claims compared to workers with a year or more on the job. It recommends a robust new-hire training program and ongoing training to reduce the risks less-experienced employees face.
Auto accidents are another area of concern. Travelers notes auto accidents are the largest source of workplace fatalities, and suggests organizations have a formal plan that prohibits distracted driving for employees who must travel on the job.
Using alternative pain management solutions for injured workers can fight opioid abuse by limiting or reducing the use of prescription painkillers that can become addicting.
Travelers also reminds organizations that engaging injured employees in a personalized care plan as soon as the injury is reported can lead to better outcomes, shorter recovery periods and less missed time.
Survey Captures Workers’ Feelings on Returning to Work, Workplace Cleaning Protocols
American workers increasingly value enhanced cleaning of the workplace and feel safer seeing professional cleaners on-site — a sentiment shared by both vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans, according to a new survey by the Cleaning Coalition of America.
Conducted in late October, before the omicron outbreak, the survey asked 1,800 U.S. workers — 1,099 vaccinated and 501 unvaccinated — about their expectations surrounding return-to-work.
Almost two years into the pandemic, nearly half of Americans — 43% — still have lingering concerns about returning to the workplace. In fact, 38.3% of respondents would consider changing their jobs if the workplace were not cleaned properly. An overwhelming 93.4% of vaccinated respondents and 82.2% of unvaccinated respondents cited workplace cleaning protocols as important, with 77.2% of workers wanting the workplace cleaned daily.
Other survey highlights:
- 43% of respondents believe that returning to the workplace could pose a risk to their health and safety.
- 38.3% of respondents would consider changing their jobs if the workplace were not cleaned frequently.
- 89.9% of respondents believe workplace cleaning protocols are very or somewhat important.
- 77.2% of respondents believe the workplace should be cleaned at least once a day.
- 62.1% of respondents believe that seeing professional cleaners at the workplace would make them feel safer and more protected from contracting COVID-19.
- 47.1% of respondents cite regular disinfecting of shared spaces as the most important step employers can take to make workers feel safe.
- 47.5% of respondents have asked their employer about their company’s cleaning protocols.
A clean workplace is not the only concern, with respondents citing COVID-19 infection rates as a primary impediment to returning to in-person work. Some 35.2% of respondents say COVID-19 infection rates are the greatest impediment to returning to the office, while 17.4% cite vaccination rates.
The survey is available here for download.
American Medical Association
What Doctors Wish Patients Knew About the COVID-19 Omicron Variant
Since its discovery, the Omicron variant has demonstrated that it is more transmissible compared to other variants. The speed of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant’s spread throughout the world has left many patients with more questions than answers. An infectious disease specialist aims to clear up some of the confusion surrounding Omicron. Click here for full article.
This is the ‘Worst Food Ingredient for Your Immune System’ – Especially During COVID, says Immunologist
When the first wave of Covid hit the U.S., it became clear that the majority of patients being placed on ventilators had a series of underlying conditions. Among those were metabolic disorders like obesity and diabetes, both of which have been surging in the U.S. over the past few years. Click here for full article.
The Army’s ‘Universal Vaccine’ Aims to End All COVID Pandemics
The rise of the COVID-19 omicron variant and resultant spike in COVID-19 cases have redefined the meaning of “fully vaccinated.” Many experts are now talking about yearly COVID booster shots or variant-specific vaccines. But what if there were a universal coronavirus vaccine that protected against omicron and all new COVID-19 variants? Click here for full article.
COVAX Delivers its Billionth COVID-19 Vaccine Dose
The UN-led COVAX scheme has delivered one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines, one of the organizations that manage the program announced on Saturday. Click here for full article.
Los Angeles Times
The Coronavirus Waiting Game: It can Take Days for Symptoms to Appear, Longer for Severe Illness
It can take time for COVID-19 symptoms to worsen following exposure to the coronavirus. While most people only experience mild or no symptoms at all, it can take roughly a week or so before severe illness strikes for those who do end up experiencing life-threatening symptoms. Click here for full article.
Los Angeles Times
Children’s COVID Vaccination Rates Called a ‘Gut Punch’
Suspicion, misinformation, complacency and delays because of the holidays and bad weather have combined to produce alarmingly low COVID-19 vaccination rates in U.S. children ages 5 to 11, authorities say. Click here for full article.
The New York Times
How to Find a Quality Mask (and Avoid Counterfeits)
Knowing which mask to pick and making sure it’s not a fake requires the sleuthing skills of a forensic investigator. Our guide can help. Click here for full article.
The Real Reason Americans Aren’t Isolating
The life of a hotel front-desk clerk in a red state can tell you a lot about America’s COVID-19 failures. He doesn’t want to be identified, because he is worried about being fired, but I can tell you this: He doesn’t have paid sick days or health insurance. Click here for full article.
CWCI: California Workers’ Comp COVID Claims Spiked During the December Omicron Surge
California workers’ comp COVID-19 claim volume continues to track with the state’s fluctuating COVID infection trends as the latest monthly count of COVID workers’ comp claims jumped 172% in December to the second highest level of the year as the Omicron variant spread rapidly across the state according to a California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) review of claims reported to the state Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC). Click here for full article.
Workers’ Compensation Protection Expires for COVID-19 Cases in Florida
An executive order put in place to protect those who protect Floridians during the pandemic has expired. Now tens of thousands of first responders, healthcare workers and other employees are left unprotected if they were to claim work-related coronavirus infection. Click here for full article.
CBS New York
New York Workers’ Compensation Board Offers Resources For COVID Long Haulers
There are new resources available to help New Yorkers dealing with the long-term impacts of COVID. It’s for people who believe they got the virus at work. Click here for full article.
More States Considering Workers’ Comp COVID Legislation
During the past two years, a number of states passed legislation regarding workers’ compensation presumptions for COVID-19, according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). Click here for full article.
COVID-19 Workplace Liability May Include Workers’ Comp. and Torts
A recent California appellate court decision provides insight into the surprising reach of employers’ liability with respect to employee COVID-19 infections. Click here for full article.
The Center Square
Cannabis Legalization, Workers’ Compensation Bills Await Maryland Lawmakers
Maryland lawmakers return to Annapolis for the 2022 legislative session Monday and have a host of pre-filed bills to review. Click here for full article.
Two Laws, Lower Workers’ Comp Rates to Take Effect in Florida Saturday
A pair of bills signed this year by Gov. Ron DeSantis, involving vehicle rentals and notaries public, will become law Saturday. Click here for full article.
Star Local Media
What to Know About Workers’ Compensation in Texas
Workers’ compensation, which can provide cash and medical care to employees injured on the job, and benefits to survivors in cases of a work-related death, began with a federal program in 1908. It gave benefits to civilian workers whose jobs were hazardous and became the first kind of social insurance established across the United States. Click here for full article.
Assault at Job Covered by Workers’ Comp, Mississippi Supreme Court Rules
A man gets assaulted at work by two co-workers. Is the man’s recourse for his injuries limited only to the exclusive remedy of the workers’ compensation system? Click here for full article.
Connecticut Approves 14.1% Workers’ Compensation Pure Premium Reduction
The Connecticut Insurance Department has approved a filing with decreases of 14.1% to workers’ compensation pure premium lost costs, and an 8.2% reduction in assigned risk rates. Click here for full article.
Wisconsin Bill Would Make Changes to Comp Law
A bill was introduced in the Wisconsin House of Representatives on Wednesday that seeks to make a number of changes to the state worker compensation law, including granting rule-making authority. Click here for full article.
Despite Drop in Profitability, Calif. Comp Outperforms National Market
Workers compensation insurers doing business in California realized a lower return on net worth in 2020 than in the previous two years, but the state still had better results than those of comp insurers throughout the country, according to a research bulletin that the California Workers’ Compensation Institute published Wednesday. Click here for full article.
Biz New Orleans
Workers’ Compensation Rates Down by Double Digits in 2022
Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has approved the annual loss cost filing of the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) for a -10.5% reduction in workers’ compensation rates. The decrease will take effect May 1, 2022. Click here for full article.
State of Vermont
Vermont Businesses to See Decrease in Workers’ Compensation Insurance for Record Sixth Year in a Row
Governor Phil Scott and Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) Commissioner Michael Pieciak today announced that Vermont businesses will see another rate decrease in workers’ compensation insurance in 2022. This is the sixth straight year workers’ compensation rates have decreased, and when combined with decreases from 2017-2021, Vermont employers will pay an average of 41% less in premiums than they did in 2016. Click here for full article.
Treasury & Risk
German Court Rules Workers’ Comp Covers Accidents in the Home
The 2nd Senate of the Federal Social Court in Germany has determined that a remote worker who fell between his bed and desk was injured while “commuting.” Click here for full article.
Workers’ Comp Insurance Carriers Move to Payroll Billing
The traditional billing model for workers’ compensation insurance was shown to be flawed during the pandemic. Click here for full article.
Property Casualty 360
Navigating the Workers’ Comp Subrogation Dance
Workers’ compensation subrogation is an area of claims practice requiring the marriage of multiple disciplines. To succeed, the workers’ compensation subrogation specialist must be adept at understanding the file, so there are coordinated efforts and organization of the settlement plan when the files converge. Click here for full article.
Insurance Business America
How Agents and Carriers are Being Boosted in Workers’ Comp
Small businesses face many challenges when it comes to the availability of and access to workers’ compensation insurance. Click here for full article.
Risk & Insurance
3 Emerging and Future Trends in Workers’ Compensation
Enlyte experts from disparate disciplines reflected recently on three emerging and future trends in workers’ compensation. Click here for full article.