TAN to Launch 2022 Webinar Series on April 20: Free for Members
The Texas Nonsubscriber Webinar Series resumes April 20 at 1:30 p.m. with a course on psychologically informed physical therapy. The course will explore in-depth how psychologically informed physical therapy differs from traditional therapy in prevention and management of chronic musculoskeletal pain.
Psychologically informed physical therapy incorporates cognitive-behavioral techniques such as mindfulness, breath work, relaxation training and positive coping skills into physical therapy to address both the physical and psychological aspects of pain.
This webinar is the 2022 launch of TAN’s popular nonsubscriber webinar series and is presented by Steven Clark, a regional director of WorkStrategies for Select Medical Corp. Clark has worked in inpatient and outpatient settings treating neurological, spinal cord, orthopedic, hand and industrial patients. He also works on-site with employers assisting in the development of injury prevention and return-to-work programs.
This webinar is free to TAN members and their colleagues in member companies. Members are encouraged to forward this invite to colleagues from their companies who may benefit from this learning experience. It is eligible for CE credit for Certified Nurse Case Managers.
Click here to register.
DWC Shares Update on COVID Claims
Insurance carriers have reported more than 78,000 COVID-19 claims and 422 fatalities to the Texas Department of Insurance’s Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) from the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 through Feb. 6, 2022, according to the latest data from the agency. Almost half of the claims and fatalities involve first responders and correction officers.
More than $90.6 million has been paid in COVID-19-related workers’ compensation claims through Feb. 6, according to the data. This includes the following:
- $29.8 million in employer salary continuation
- $27.8 million in hospital/facility services
- $23.2 million in workers’ compensation income benefits
- $6.7 million in professional medical services
- $2.2 million in death benefits
- $667,002 in pharmacy costs
- $292,850 in burial benefits
The DWC statistics were compiled from data reported as of Feb. 6, 2022, on COVID-19 claims. DWC also conducted a data call with 74 insurance carriers to determine how many workers’ compensation claims resulted in a positive test or diagnosis as of Dec. 31, 2021, and the disposition of those claims.
According to the report, insurance carriers accepted 52% of COVID-19 positive test claims. However, despite more than 18,000 denials of COVID-19 claims with positive tests or diagnoses, there were only 166 disputes filed with DWC as of Feb. 6, 2022.
The increase in COVID-19 occupational disease claims reported during the pandemic stopped a 20-year trend in Texas of fewer workers’ compensation claims reported each year. The total number of workers’ compensation claims reported to DWC during two years of the pandemic (January 2020 through December 2021) was 15% higher than the two years prior to the pandemic (January 2018 through December 2019).
The full report may be found here.
TDI Provides Notice of Data Security Event
On January 4, 2022, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) became aware of a security issue with a TDI web application that manages workers’ compensation information. TDI immediately took the application offline, quickly fixed the issue, and started an investigation to determine the nature and scope of the event.
TDI will send letters to people who had a new workers’ compensation claim between March 2019 and January 2022 and may have been affected by this event. These letters will include instructions for enrolling in credit monitoring services at no cost to them.
People who do not get a letter but have had a workers’ compensation claim since 2006 may still qualify for credit monitoring. People can find out if their workers’ compensation claim may have been affected by calling 855-248-7100, 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. Central time, seven days a week, except U.S. holidays.
The types of information that may have been accessible include names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, parts or all of Social Security numbers, and information about injuries and workers’ compensation claims.
TDI worked with a forensics company to search the web for evidence of misuse of the information and no evidence has been found to date.
To address the issue, TDI is:
- Working with a forensic company to investigate the nature and scope of the event.
- Reviewing and enhancing policies, procedures, and security efforts.
- Offering 12 months of credit monitoring and identity protection services at no cost to those who may have been affected. These services include fraud consultation and identity theft restoration.
- Providing a dedicated help line for questions about this event. The help line is manned by First Watch Technologies, Inc. staff. This company specializes in helping people potentially affected by a data security event.
The help line number is 855-248-7100 and it is open 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. Central time, seven days a week, except U.S. holidays.
To learn more about the event and steps people who were potentially affected can take to protect their information, see TDI’s webpage www.tdi.texas.gov/data-security-event.
Business Survey Shows Employers’ Top Concerns
With inflation higher than it’s been in decades, small businesses say rising costs are their top challenge, according to the latest MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index survey. Small businesses also expressed high levels of concern over supply chain disruptions.
The quarterly survey was taken Jan. 14-26, 2022, before fighting broke out in Ukraine. It indicates small business concerns over inflation are much higher than they were last quarter, with 33% of small businesses now ranking inflation as the biggest challenge facing the small business community. This is up 10 percentage points from Q4 2021 and 14 percentage points from Q3 of last year.
After inflation, supply chain issues (26%) and COVID (24%) are the next biggest concerns for small business owners this quarter. More small business owners (26%) now cite supply chain issues as their biggest problem, up eight percentage points from Q4 2021.
More than eight in ten small business owners or decision makers (85%) report being concerned about the impact of inflation on their business. Almost half (44%) indicate they are very concerned (up 13 percentage points since Q4 2021).
A majority (67%) of small businesses report having had to raise their prices over the past year. Another four in ten report having decreased staff (41%) or taken out a loan (39%) in the past year in response to growing inflation pressures.
Businesses with 20 or more employees were more likely to report decreasing staff or taking out a loan in response to inflation than those with fewer employees. Small businesses in the retail sector were the most likely to report increasing the prices of their goods and services (80%) compared to those in professional services (68%), manufacturing (65%) and services (56%).
The full report is available here.
Survey: Workers Weigh in on Importance of Employer Addressing Safety Concerns
The vast majority (89%) of working Americans say workplace safety is more important than ever before; however, only half (54%) believe their safety is extremely important to their employer. And while 81% agree that executive leadership personally cares about employees’ safety, 64% believe their employer’s approach to emergency communication needs work. That’s according to the inaugural State of Employee Safety Report from Austin-based AlertMedia.
The survey found that most working Americans (82%) report that their employer offers safety training, but only half (56%) report participating in training more than once per year. What’s more, employees who are not offered safety training are more than twice as likely to say they would not know what to do in the event of an emergency at work.
Nearly all working Americans (97%) said feeling safe is an important factor in determining where to work. In fact, when asked how they would respond if their employer failed to communicate effectively about an emergency or other potentially dangerous event, 44% said they would feel unsafe, and 58% said they would reconsider their employment or start looking for other job opportunities.
The report’s findings are based on responses from 2,002 full-time employed American adults. The study found that while the majority of employed Americans remain concerned about navigating public health crises at work (78%), nearly as many are worried about other emergencies and disruptive events, including cyberattacks (64%), severe weather (65%), crime (61%), significant outages (59%), and workplace violence (54%). Additionally, 83% of U.S. workers say they have encountered at least one emergency situation while working across their careers.
The report is available here.
Seasonal Safety Tips Can Matter
Protecting your business and workers is seen as an employer’s No. 1 priority. AmTrust Financial, a leading workers’ compensation insurer, recently provided the following safety tips for all four seasons.
- Keep the workplace safe by clearing clutter, removing fire hazards, deep cleaning floors and more.
- Businesses in tornado zones should prepare their property and create a safe room for employees in case of an emergency.
- If starting a company sports team, make sure to understand what will determine whether employee injuries are covered during the event.
- Provide plenty of water and other fluids to keep outdoor workers hydrated throughout their shifts.
- Ensure employees working in the heat wear appropriate clothing, like loose-fitting, breathable fabrics.
- Schedule frequent breaks and watch for symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as heatstroke.
- Monitor weather reports to stay abreast of impending storms and make sure the outside of the building is secure.
- Install a generator to prepare for power loss and reduce business disruption.
- If an area is prone to wildfires, create a defensible space around the building to reduce damage from the fire.
- Provide more light in the evening to mitigate the hazards of working in underlit areas.
- Remind employees that driving on wet leaves can be as slippery as driving on icy roads.
- Keep high-touch surfaces clean and sanitized to reduce the spread of germs.
- Consider a workplace flu shot program to encourage employees to get the flu vaccine and reduce absences from illness.
- Ensure outdoor workers take frequent breaks from freezing temperatures.
- Encourage workers to dress in warm clothes and wear layers. Offer PPE as needed.
- Plan driving routes around any forecasted bad weather.
- Keep walkways, driveways and parking lots clear of snow and ice to prevent slips and falls.
- Clean snow and water when it’s tracked inside and regularly replace wet mats at entrances.
- Assemble a team of experts to call for emergency help, such as a roof inspector, a professional snow plowing service, a plumber to inspect pipes, etc.
Study Suggests Emojis Can Reveal Worker Intentions
The type and frequency of emoji use by remote workers in their communication can offer a telling sign of employee burnout and can frequently predict whether the worker will drop out of remote work, according to researchers at the University of Michigan. Remote workers who do not use emojis in work communication were found to be 75% more likely to drop out, the study found.
Researchers used machine learning to track emoji use in millions of pre-pandemic GitHub work-related posts as a marker of emotions. They found that on average, more than 5% of GitHub posts contain emojis. Of those, certain emojis were used more than others and differed from typical emoji used in social, nonwork communication.
The researchers assigned sentiment scores to emoji, reasoning that people use emoji for different reasons, for example, adding a smiling face has more positive weight than a simple check mark.
They found that workers who regularly use emoji to express emotion—positive or negative—in their work may have better emotional health and are naturally less likely to drop off the platform one year later. Those who don’t use emoji are three times more likely to drop out of remote work.
The team found that by using their machine learning model, they could predict dropouts with 75% accuracy.
The study was published online in the journal PLOS One and is available here.
Study Shows Impact on Claims When Female Workers Are Evaluated by Female Doctors
Female workers injured on the job are more likely to qualify for workers’ compensation disability payments and to receive higher payment amounts when their claims are evaluated by female doctors, according to a new study of claims in the Texas workers’ compensation system.
Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Illinois at Chicago analyzed administrative data from the Texas workers’ compensation system from the years 2013 through 2017 by focusing on the dispute resolution process. In such cases, an independent second opinion is obtained from a randomly assigned doctor and patients have no control over the gender of the designated doctor who will decide their claim.
The study found female claimants were 5% more likely to be evaluated as disabled and received about 8.5% more in cash benefits when the doctor assigned to their claim was female. No comparable effect was found for injured male workers, whose benefits were the same regardless of the gender of the doctor assessing their claim.
To address the gender gap the study identifies, its authors recommend policy interventions that address how doctors are assigned.
The study is available here.
Coronavirus FAQ: What Does Endemic Mean – and are We There Yet?
We all know what the word pandemic means now, but remind me what endemic means again — and are we there yet? Click here for full article.
People With Long COVID Experienced These 3 Symptoms Six Months Later, Study Finds
A new Danish study has identified specific symptoms that COVID-19 survivors feel months after infection. Click here for full article.
TSA to Extend Mask Mandate for Planes, Public Transportation Until April 18
The Transportation Security Administration is extending the mask mandate on public transportation until April 18, according to a White House official and a TSA official. Click here for full article.
National Institutes of Health
Mandatory Masking in Schools Reduced COVID-19 Cases During Delta Surge
Schools with mandatory masking during the Delta surge had approximately 72% fewer cases of in-school transmission of SARS-CoV-2 when compared to schools with optional or partial masking policies, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Click here for full article.
NSC Analysis: Traffic is Back to Pre-pandemic Levels, Deaths Continue to Climb
The National Safety Council released its preliminary estimates for motor vehicle fatalities in 2021, and for a second year in a row, the numbers are dark and deeply concerning. NSC data show more than 46,000 people died on U.S. roads in 2021, a 9% increase from 2020. Click here for full article.
The New York Times
Got a Covid Booster? You Probably Won’t Need Another for a Long Time
A flurry of new studies suggest that several parts of the immune system can mount a sustained, potent response to any coronavirus variant. Click here for full article.
Safety + Health
OSHA Temporary Enforcement Effort Targeting Health Care Facilities With COVID-19 Patients
OSHA recently announced the start of a three-month increase of inspections at hospitals and nursing care facilities that treat COVID-19 patients. Click here for full article.
‘Very Sobering’: Global Deaths from COVID may be More Than 3 Times Higher Than Official Toll, Study Says
As the U.S. approaches the grim milestone of one million COVID-19 deaths, a team of researchers published the first peer-reviewed study looking at excess death estimates on a global scale. The results are alarming, health experts say. Click here for full article.
Miami Beach Police Officer’s Workers Comp Claim Denied Despite 11-week Hospitalization with COVID-19
A Miami Beach police officer who spent 11 weeks in the hospital battling COVID-19 last year is dealing with another unwanted issue. Click here for full article.
Workers’ Compensation Covers on-the-job COVID Illness or Death, but Denials are Common
Jamie Kincaid came home from his job at a mobile-home factory last May with a cough. He told his wife that several coworkers had already tested positive for COVID-19, and he worried he had caught the virus from one of them. A few days later, a positive test confirmed his fears. A few days after that, he was struggling to breathe. Click here for full article.
A Fundamentalist East Texas Church Bought a Sawmill. Injuries and Child Labor Violations Began to Pile Up.
On a humid July afternoon, two investigators from the Texas Workforce Commission’s Child Labor Law Unit pulled into the red-dirt parking lot of Custom Cut Lumber, a sawmill located in Alto, amid the Piney Woods about an hour south of Tyler. Click here for full article.
How to Mitigate Crossover Risks Between Workers’ Comp and Employer Liability
In California, workers’ compensation claims often lead to crossover employment actions stemming from the same set of facts. Click here for full article.
Report: Sharp Drop in California Workers’ Comp Independent Medical Reviews
A report from the California Workers’ Compensation Institute on the state’s independent medical review process used to resolve workers’ comp medical disputes shows the number of IMR decision letters hit an all-time low in 2021. Click here for full article.
Medical Access in California Workers’ Compensation Examined
A California Workers’ Compensation Institute study shows injured worker access to medical care for initial treatment was relatively consistent between 2010 and 2020. Click here for full article.
Colorado Lawmakers Propose Changes to Comp Law
Colorado lawmakers are considering a bill that would make a number of changes to workers compensation law, including increasing funeral benefits for workers killed on the job. Click here for full article.
Hawaii Insurance Division Approves 8.2% Increase in Workers’ Compensation Loss Cost Rates
The National Council on Compensation Insurance, Inc. (NCCI) recently requested an 11.2% average workers’ compensation (WC) loss cost rate increase for 2022, subject to approval by the Hawaii Insurance Division. Click here for full article.
Viewpoint: Hawaii Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Work Comp Subrogation
Workers’ compensation carriers doing business in Hawaii held their collective breathe for 2021 waiting on the Supreme Court to decide whether it would incorporate the common law Made Whole Doctrine to workers’ compensation liens. Click here for full article.
‘Like He Just Never Existed’: Widow of NC Officer Who Died of COVID Says City Denied Workers’ Comp Claim
First they battled COVID-19. Now, front-line workers and in some cases their widows, are fighting the government for workers’ compensation. A WCNC Charlotte review of North Carolina and city of Charlotte pandemic workers’ comp claims revealed most who apply for benefits are getting denied, including some front-line workers. Click here for full article.
The National Law Review
Oregon Legislation Addresses Workers’ Compensation and Overtime Issues for Agricultural and Manufacturing Employees
The primary employment-related bills passed in Oregon’s 2022 legislative session relate to pay equity and the Workplace Fairness Act. Click here for full article.
Will Workers’ Comp Pay for Marijuana Prescribed for Pain Treatment?
In the “highly” unlikely event that your treating physician writes you a prescription for marijuana, the workers’ compensation insurance carrier could be forced to pay for the prescribed marijuana. In Virginia, it doesn’t appear that there are any legal outlets for purchasing marijuana so it is very unclear how the prescribed marijuana would be obtained. Click here for full article.
Risk & Insurance
50 Years of the Workers’ Comp Industry: Where It’s Been and Where It’s Heading
In 1972, the workers’ compensation system in the United States was at a crossroads. Many states had programs with substantial weaknesses, and they were looking for guidance on how to move forward. Click here for full article.
Supreme Court Could Decide Whether Workers’ Compensation can Cover Medical Marijuana
The U.S. Supreme Court could be wading into marijuana laws, as it signals some interest in a legal dispute around workers’ compensation coverage for medical cannabis — and it wants one of the government’s top lawyers to weigh in. Click here for full article.
United States: Workers’ Compensation Claims Involving Remote Workers: What Employers And HR Professional Need To Know
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in the number of employees working from home on a part-time or full-time basis. “Hybrid” work arrangements – where employees work remotely on one or more workdays per week – are projected to remain a workplace norm long after the pandemic has ended. Click here for full article.
Property Casualty 360
How does the Labor Shortage Impact Workers’ Comp?
Like many other industries today, the workers’ compensation industry is constantly evolving. As the world continues to adapt and change during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, several of the workers’ compensation trends seen over the past two years will continue to play a role throughout 2022. Click here for full article.
Property Casualty 360
Trends to Watch in Tomorrow’s Workers’ Comp Market
Like other lines of business insurance, workers’ compensation prices and performance have historically been affected by an “underwriting cycle” driven by the ebb and flow of markets in transition. Click here for full article.
Updated Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside (WCMSA) Reference Guide (Version 3.6)
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has released an updated Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside (WCMSA) Reference Guide (Version 3.6, March 15, 2022). Click here for full article.