Republicans Remain in Solid Control of Texas Government
Republicans solidified their control of Texas government in the November midterm election, sweeping all statewide races while also picking up one seat in the state Senate and one seat in the state House of Representatives. As a result, Republicans will control 19 of the 31 Senate seats and 86 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives when the 88th session of the Legislature convenes.
Statewide, incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott defeated Beto O’Rourke in the race for governor, while incumbents Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick defeated Mike Collier and Attorney General Ken Paxton defeated Rochelle Garza. Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian and Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar also won reelection. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller was a winner, and Sen. Dawn Buckingham defeated Jay Kleberg in the race for Texas land commissioner. All three Republican candidates for the state Supreme Court were elected.
Voters were also tasked with deciding all 36 existing seats in the Texas delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives, plus two new seats created as a result of the 2020 census. Neither party was able to increase their share of the delegation, however, and it will consist of 25 Republicans and 13 Democrats, compared to 24 Republicans and 12 Democrats previously.
Meanwhile, voters in Maryland and Missouri approved legalizing marijuana while voters in North Dakota, South Dakota and Arkansas rejected similar measures. Maryland and Missouri will join 19 other states and the District of Columbia where recreational marijuana is legal. Some 37 states and the District of Columbia provide for varying degrees of medical use of marijuana.
TDI Provides Update on Work-Related COVID Claims
Insurance carriers have reported more than 90,000 workers’ compensation-related COVID-19 claims in Texas and 459 fatalities from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to August 2022, according to a report from the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC). About 35% of the claims received benefit payments, for a total of $121.6 million. The other 65% of claims did not receive benefits.
More than two-thirds of COVID-19 claims (68%) involved injured employees who tested positive or were diagnosed with COVID-19. Among the positive test or diagnosis claims, insurance carriers accepted 59%, denied 39%, and are still investigating 2% of the claims. Despite more than 22,000 denials of COVID-19 claims with positive tests or diagnoses, only 207 disputes were filed with DWC.
More than half of COVID-19 claims (51%) and COVID-19 fatal claims (55%) involved first responders and correctional officers.
Slightly more than one-third of COVID-19 claims (35%) had medical, indemnity or both types of benefit payments associated with them. Of the $121.6 million paid on COVID-19 claims, 64% were indemnity benefits and 36% were medical benefits.
The median number of days from the date of injury to the first medical service was seven days. More than half of the claimants received medical services on the same day or within one week of injury (54%), and four out of five claimants (80%) received their first medical service within two weeks of injury.
The full report is available here.
NCCI Report Shares Impact of Long COVID Claims
Almost one in four (24%) workers’ compensation claims involving COVID-19 were for patients who developed long COVID, according to a report from the National Council on Compensation Insurance.
The report, “COVID-19 and The New Reality — Prolonged COVID,” is based on workers’ compensation claims from March 2020 through June 2021 and medical services through March 2022. It found there were more than 7,700 COVID-related claims with payments of more than $120 million. Of those claims, 24% were for workers who developed long COVID.
Other key findings include:
- Of COVID-19 WC patients, 20% of nonhospitalized and 47% of hospitalized patients developed long COVID.
- The average temporary disability indemnity benefit duration for long COVID patients was about 160 days for hospitalized patients and 95 days for nonhospitalized patients.
- The most common symptoms seen in long COVID patients were of a pulmonary or cardiovascular nature.
- Hospitalized patients sought more physical medical services in the 30- to 270-day-long COVID window than nonhospitalized patients.
- Home health care services performed in the 30- to 270-day-long COVID window were among the top three medical services provided for patients who had been hospitalized.
- Prescriptions for pulmonary inhalers dominated both the hospitalized and nonhospitalized cohorts.
- Women and health care workers experienced long COVID most often. Almost a third of long COVID workers’ comp claims were for people ages 51-60.
- The average cost of a hospitalized worker with long COVID was around $216,000, more than five times higher than the average cost for nonhospitalized workers.
The report is available here.
Texas Nonfatal Work Injuries Rise Slightly in 2021
Texas private industry employers reported 178,900 recordable nonfatal injury cases for 2021, an increase of 300 cases from 2020. The latest figure represents an incidence rate of 2.1 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers in Texas, compared to 2.0 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers in Texas in 2020. The national nonfatal injury incidence rate for 2021 was 2.7 per 100 equivalent full-time employees.
The injury data is contained in a report prepared by the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the report, most increases in incidence rates happened as certain industries returned to their pre-pandemic levels, including transportation and warehousing, retail trade, accommodations and food services, and utilities.
The report shows that the transportation and warehousing sector had the highest incidence rate at 3.7. That was followed by agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting at 3.4. Retail trade had the third highest incidence rate at 3.3, followed by arts, entertainment and recreation at 2.9, and health care and social assistance at 2.7.
The complete Texas nonfatal injury and illness incidence rates and number data tables by industry, as well as more in-depth data about 2021 injury and illness cases involving days away from work, is available here.
OSHA Changes Injury Reporting Process for Some Employers
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has changed the way affected employers and organizations must report their 2022 workplace injury and illness data.
OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (ITA) has moved to Login.gov, which means all affected current and new account holders must connect their ITA account to a Login.gov account with the same email address to access the application for the 2023 collection of calendar year 2022 Form 300A data.
Login.gov is a secure sign-in service that allows the public to access government applications using one account and password. The reporting requirement primarily affects establishments with 250 or more employees that are not among certain industries exempt from the requirement.
Employers have until March 2 to submit the required information.
NCCI Report Examines Impact of Medical Inflation on WC Cost
A recent report from the National Council on Compensation Insurance suggests medical inflation in the workers’ compensation system has been moderate for the past decade, but cautions the dramatic rise in consumer prices raises questions about how hard inflation will impact workers’ compensation medical costs.
According to NCCI, two factors drive changes in medical claims costs: the price of medical services; and utilization, which measures the mix and number of services provided to an injured worker. NCCI’s most recent medical data show that drug costs are declining, physician costs are up slightly, and facility costs are rising in the workers’ compensation system.
NCCI’s review of price indexes reveals that between 2012 and 2019, workers’ compensation paid costs increased at a relatively stable rate of 1.5% annually. The year 2020 experience reflects a large drop in new workers’ compensation claims due to the pandemic. Subsequent experience in 2021 shows that paid medical costs per claim rose at 2%, slightly above the eight-year average preceding 2020.
NCCI says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projects workers’ compensation medical cost distributions to reach 3.7% in 2022, before dropping to 2.5% to 3% beyond 2022.
More information about the report is available here.
When the Cure Becomes the Harm: Understanding Worker Reactions to the Injury Claim Process
We all know poor worker morale can lead to an increase in employee injuries and related injury claims. But what happens if an employee gets hurt on the job and then becomes unhappy, depressed or distrustful as a result of dealing with what the employee perceives to be an unfair or insensitive injury claims system?
A new study conducted by university researchers in Canada suggests that understanding the emotions that injured workers experience when going through the injury claims process, especially if they feel the process is unfair, is important for everyone involved in the claims arena. “When unfair treatment takes place, it has adverse repercussions on workers, affecting their mental health, quality of life and future success,” says study co-author Ellen MacEachen, director of Waterloo University’s School of Public Health Sciences in Ontario. The study suggests that by identifying potential unfairness in the claims process and its behavioral and emotional effects on workers, employers have a better chance of eliminating or minimizing a stressor for injured employees — and a significant risk to employees’ mental health, loyalty and goodwill.
The study looked at what it called “precarious” workers — those in jobs that had inconsistent or low pay. It also looked at workers’ compensation claims rather than claims brought by employees of companies that choose to opt out of the workers’ comp system. Still, the lessons are worth considering. Putting employees through an insurance claim process that they find confusing, impersonal or unfair can result in frustration and even the loss of good workers — not because of the injury itself but because of the administrative process involving claims and the return-to-work efforts that follow.
Here are some suggested steps to make sure your company is not inadvertently risking the loss of good employees and employee morale as a result of a bad injury claim process:
- Make sure your company is dealing with a reputable and conscientious insurer, TPA or claims-handling company.
- Help your employees understand the steps to follow if they suffer a job-related injury.
- Appoint a company representative who can intervene with the insurer on behalf of an employee in case the employee is having a bad — or just slow — experience with a claim.
- Survey workers who have gone through your company’s insurance claim system to get their assessments of the system’s strengths and weaknesses, and press for changes accordingly.
A stable and motivated workforce is a valuable asset, especially in a tight job market. Don’t let a troublesome insurance claims process get in the way of your company’s employee retention and loyalty efforts.
Preparing Workplaces for Tripledemic
Health experts are warning this winter could be a virus “tripledemic,” with a high number of cases of influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
The flu season has begun earlier than normal, with an estimated 880,000 cases and 6,900 hospitalizations by the end of October. This makes it the worst flu season since the swine flu epidemic in 2009.
Texas has been one of the earliest states hit by the flu. The Houston Methodist Hospital system reported that the number of confirmed flu cases nearly doubled in just one week in October, rising to 975 cases.
At the same time, roughly 5,000 new RSV cases are being reported nationwide each week.
While RSV infection is common in people of all ages and normally causes only a mild cold, this year it is triggering a high rate of pneumonia and bronchitis in young children. In Texas, 85-90% of pediatric hospital beds are full due to RSV.
Experts believe that because COVID precautions shielded children from normal exposure to common viruses, their immune systems did not develop sufficiently to keep RSV in check now that those precautions have been lifted.
The third part of the “tripledemic” comes in the form of new variants of the COVID virus. These will be a particular concern for people with weakened immune systems.
This “tripledemic” means employees are at high risk of losing work time and wages due to illness, while employers face reduced productivity and revenue as employees call out sick. Therefore, it is important that both take steps to limit the risk of catching and spreading the flu, COVID or RSV:
- Employers should encourage workers to get the annual flu vaccine and most recent COVID shot. Consider hosting a vaccination clinic on-site. (There is no vaccine for RSV yet.)
- Continue making hand sanitizer widely available for employees to use, and encourage them to wash their hands frequently.
- Support good “cough etiquette.” This means covering the mouth with a hand, sleeve or tissue when coughing or sneezing. Promote this as a courtesy to co-workers, as it helps keep them from getting sick. Make tissues widely available, and encourage people to wash up right away if they use a hand to cover a cough.
- Encourage sick employees to stay home. While this will lead to some degree of reduced manpower, it could quickly become much worse if a sick employee spreads the flu or COVID to co-workers. Make sure all employees are informed about any changes to the company’s sick leave policy.
- Frequently clean and disinfect phones, desks, computers or work tools that are shared between co-workers. The flu virus can survive on this equipment for up to 48 hours.
- Consider adopting a “no handshake” policy; this allows employees to politely decline a handshake when a customer or co-worker appears sick.
- Employees who fall ill while traveling or on remote assignment should notify their supervisor as soon as possible.
Millions at Risk of Losing Health Insurance if U.S. Ends COVID Public Health Emergency in January
The Biden administration is telling health-care providers to begin preparing for an end to the public health emergency declared in response to the Covid-19 pandemic nearly three years ago. Click here for full article.
COVID-19 Vaccines Reduce, Not Increase, Risk of Stillbirth
Numerous studies evaluating the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people have found no increased risk of stillbirth among those who have been vaccinated. Far from demonstrating a safety hazard, vaccination has been shown to reduce a variety of coronavirus-related risks during pregnancy, including stillbirth. Click here for full article.
U.S. Supreme Court’s Sotomayor Rejects Challenge to N.Y. COVID Vaccine Mandate
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Thursday rejected a bid to prevent New York City from enforcing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for municipal workers against a group teachers, firefighters and others who challenged the policy. Click here for full article.
U.S. Set to Face Third COVID Winter, This Time Without Key Tools and Treatments
The country is heading into its third Covid winter without crucial tools we’ve relied on at previous points in the pandemic, both as governments roll back their responses and as the virus outruns some of our most important medicine-cabinet defenses. Click here for full article.
Unvaccinated Infants Were Hospitalized With COVID More This Summer Than Most Age Groups, CDC Says
Infants too young for vaccination were hospitalized with Covid-19 more often than any age group other than the elderly during the omicron BA.5 wave over the summer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Click here for full article.
The Washington Post
Universal Masking Leads to Fewer COVID Cases in Schools, Study Finds
Public schools that kept universal masking requirements in place last year had significantly fewer coronavirus cases than their counterparts that lifted mandates as state policies changed, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that weighs in on the hotly debated pandemic safety measure. Click here for full article.
Los Angeles Times
Coronavirus Today: Are The Unvaxxed Still Dangerous?
It’s been almost two years since the first COVID-19 vaccines first became available, and nearly one-third of Americans still haven’t completed their initial series of shots. Click here for full article.
The Washington Post
Repeat Coronavirus Infections Can Still Be Dangerous, Study Suggests
For people who have endured one bout of covid-19, a question looms: How protected are they from bad outcomes if they’re infected again? Not as much as some might think, according to a study from the Department of Veterans Affairs of nearly 41,000 people who suffered reinfection. Click here for full article.
EHS Daily Advisor
Labor OIG: OSHA Did Not Protect Workers From COVID-19
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did not sufficiently protect American workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) concluded in an audit released October 31. Click here for full article.
Long COVID in Workers Compensation: A First Look
As of July 2022, the United States has nearly 50 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections, with more than 1 million deaths. While there is no standardized or universal definition of long COVID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention characterizes it as “an umbrella term for the wide range of health consequences that are present four or more weeks after infection with SARS-CoV-2.” Click here for full article.
California Extends Presumption of COVID-19 as Workers’ Compensation Injury and Modifies Notice Requirements for Potential Exposure
In addition to AB 152 extending COVID-19 leave through December 31, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom has also signed into law two other COVID-related bills—AB 1751 and AB2693—affecting employers’ policies regarding employees who contract COVID-19. Click here for full article.
COVID-19 and Workers Compensation – Phase II of the Multibureau Collaboration
To better understand how the workers compensation (WC) industry is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, a multistate evaluation of the reported COVID-19 claims was undertaken. This benchmarking analysis included representation from the following WC bureaus: California, Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). Click here for full article.
State Orders Average 8.4% Reduction in Workers’ Compensation Rates
This is the sixth consecutive year the state has ordered a reduction in workers’ compensation rates. Florida businesses on average will see an 8.4% reduction on their workers’ compensation bill starting next year. Click here for full article.
Pharmacy Benefits Manager To Pay $3.2 Million for Alleged Failure To Follow Pricing Procedures for Workers’ Compensation Prescriptions
Pharmacy Benefits Manager, Express Scripts, Inc., has agreed to pay $3.2 million after allegedly failing to follow prescription pricing procedures that are in place to keep costs down and prevent overcharges in the workers’ compensation insurance system, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today. Click here for full article.
Insurance Business America
Common Reasons Why Workers’ Compensation Claims are Denied – and How to Avoid Them
Workplace accidents can prove costly to businesses as even a single incident can have huge financial ramifications – and sometimes, even with all the necessary safety measures in place, mishaps still occur on the job site. Click here for full article.
U.S. News & World Report
Best Workers’ Compensation Insurance Companies of 2022
If you run a business with employees, then workers’ compensation insurance is something you may want to consider. It provides benefits to employees injured on the job, while also offering some protection against lawsuits from injured workers. Below is our list of the Best Workers’ Compensation Insurance Companies of 2022, as well as information to help explain workers’ compensation insurance. Click here for full article.
Average Workers’ Comp Settlement For Surgery
Workers compensation benefits are supposed to pay for your medical bills and lost wages if you get hurt on the job. For certain types of severe injuries, you might also be entitled to additional compensation as determined by your state’s rules. Click here for full article.
DOL Official Identifies Three ‘Concerning’ Comp Trends
Workers misclassified as independent contractors, reductions in benefits, and states looking to make workers compensation protections optional for employers are three “troubling” trends for the insurance industry, a U.S. Department of Labor official wrote in a recent blog post on the agency’s website. Click here for full article.
Rise in Construction Comp Claims Severity Offset by Flat Frequency
While claim frequency in workers compensation has been flat for a decade, claim severity is increasing, and no industry is seeing it more than construction, according to panelists at the 42nd International Risk Management Institute Inc. Construction Risk Conference. Click here for full article.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
TED: The Economics Daily
There were 392 workplace homicides in 2020. There were also 37,060 nonfatal injuries in the workplace resulting from an intentional injury by another person. Click here for full article.
Musculoskeletal Disorders: The Number One Cause of Occupational Injuries
The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor defines MSDs as musculoskeletal system and connective tissue diseases and disorders when the event or exposure leading to the case is bodily reaction (e.g., bending, climbing, crawling, reaching, twisting), overexertion, or repetitive motion. Click here for full article.
3 Ways to Minimize OSHA Recordables
Workplace injuries and illnesses cost employers billions of dollars each year. In 2020, workplace injuries cost U.S. employers $163.9 billion, or more than $1,100 per employee, according to the National Safety Council. Click here for full article.
Research Examines Workplace Stress in Aftermath of COVID Pandemic
Chronic stress is associated with a wide range of health disparities, but the examination of workplace stress has been minimal in many occupations. Click here for full article.
U.S. Department of Labor Blog
3 Concerning Trends for Injured and Ill Workers
Last week, the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Academy of Social Insurance published their annual, comprehensive study of trends in workers’ compensation. Click here for full article.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
TED: The Economics Daily
There were 2.6 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2021, a 1.8-percent decrease from 2.7 million cases in 2020. In 2021, the incidence rate of total recordable cases in private industry was 2.7 cases per 100 full-time workers, unchanged from 2020. Click here for full article.
Property Casualty 360
Insurance Coverage Q&A: Workers’ Comp for Chef Hurt in Pool at Work Event?
The insured is a major hotel chain that was having a ceremony at one of its properties with a pool. A chef that works for the hotel was at the party and dove into the shallow end and sustained a neck injury that required surgery. Click here for full article.
Property Casualty 360
Remote Workers & Workers’ Comp Coverage Gaps
In this post-pandemic world, it’s become clear to most employers that work-from-home arrangements are here to stay. Most employees and employers have adjusted to this “new normal” in many respects — after all, we’ve now had over two years of practice and learned that many workers can be just as efficient in a remote work setting. Click here for full article.