Texas Legislature in Final Stretch
The Texas Legislature is in its final month. It will adjourn from its 88th regular session on Monday, May 29. While the end-of-session bickering between the two chambers will likely raise the specter of subsequent special sessions, for now, legislators will focus on completing the business before them.
As the session moves into its final weeks, key dates will kick in, sounding a death knell for many bills and narrowing the list of issues that remain viable for adoption. Those dates include:
- May 8 – Last day for House committees to report out House bills (HBs) and House joint resolutions (HJRs).
- May 11 – Last day for the House to hear House bills (HBs) and House joint resolutions (HJRs) on second reading.
- May 23 – Last day for Senate to hear Senate bills (SBs) and Senate joint resolutions (SJRs).
- May 26 – Last day to concur or go to conference committees.
Following is a list of proposed bills of interest to employers that are moving through the process:
- HB 90 – Expands workers’ compensation benefits for members of the Texas military forces.
Passed by the House and pending in Senate Committee.
- HB 102 – Recovery of exemplary damages upon a compensable death.
Awaiting placement on the House floor. Senate companion pending in committee.
- HB 790 – Claims for benefits by first responders.
Passed by the House.
- HB 1255 – Arbitration proceedings and statutes of limitations.
Passed by the House and referred to Senate State Affairs Committee.
- HB 1805 – Use of low-THC cannabis for chronic pain.
Passed by the House and referred to House Health & Human Services Committee.
- HB 2468 – Expansion of LIBs.
Passed by the House and referred to Senate Committee on Business & Commerce.
- HB 3496 – Allows adjusters to use the NIPR process for application.
Heard in House committee on April 18; left pending.
- HB 778/SB 283 – Mandatory comp for employees of building and construction contractors and subcontractors.
House bill heard in House committee and left pending.
- SB 796 – Arbitration provisions in surplus lines of insurance.
Passed by the Senate. Heard in House committee and left pending.
- SB 2269 – Discontinuing group self-insurance trust fund.
Passed by the Senate. House companion heard in committee; left pending.
The following bills are still alive, but time is running out for them:
- HB 351 – Allows workers’ compensation, group accident and health to be bundled.
Pending in House Insurance Committee.
- HB 915 – Creates a workplace violence hotline and posting requirement.
Reported favorably from the House committee. Pending in House Calendars Committee.
- HB 1240 – Allows physician dispensing of certain drugs.
Heard in House committee and left pending.
- HB 4556 – Definition of intoxication.
No hearing is expected.
An update on each of these bills will be provided during TAN’s next Organization Meeting scheduled for May 17.
TDI-DWC Releases Report on Number of Nonsubscribers in Texas
The percentage of private employers in Texas that are nonsubscribers dropped to 25% in 2022, according to a survey from the TDI Division of Workers’ Compensation Research and Evaluation Group. That’s down from 28% in 2018, the most recent year for which statistics are available. The percentage of employees working for nonsubscribers fell to 17% from 18%.
The most frequent reason nonsubscribers gave for not purchasing workers’ compensation coverage was that they had too few employees (26%). Other frequently cited reasons included having few on-the-job injuries (23%), state law not requiring employers to have workers’ compensation insurance (23%), premiums being too high (17%), and pandemic-related cost-cutting efforts (11%).
Some 30% of nonsubscribers reported that they had alternative occupational benefit plans for their employees, a percentage that has been stable since 2012. The percentage of nonsubscriber employees covered by occupational benefit plans increased to 73% in 2022 from 64% in 2018.
Of the 30% of nonsubscribers that said they provided occupational injury benefits, 67% said they paid medical benefits for as long as they were medically necessary. This compares to 80% in 2018. Some 24% capped medical benefits based on the duration of treatment or amount of money spent on medical treatments, or both. This compares to 20% in 2018.
About 47% of the nonsubscribers that said they provided occupational injury benefits paid wage replacement benefits in 2022. That compares to 54% in 2018.
The full survey is available here.
Report Provides Update on COVID-19 Workers’ Comp Claims in Texas
Insurance carriers have paid more than $134 million in COVID-19 related workers’ compensation claims in Texas through Feb. 13, 2023, according to data from the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC).
Carriers reported more than 97,600 COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims and 468 fatalities to DWC since the beginning of the pandemic through Feb. 5. Slightly more than half (51%) of these claims and fatalities involve first responders and correctional officers.
The DWC information was derived from administrative claim data that insurers report to DWC, as well as a data call with 74 insurers for more information on the dispensation of claims.
The data show 34% of COVID-19 claims filed had medical or indemnity benefit payments associated with them. Among claims with medical or indemnity benefit payments, 5,678 (17%) were paid both, 4,929 (15%) had only medical benefits, and 22,495 (68%) had only indemnity benefits. As of Feb. 13, 2023, $134.3 million has been paid as indemnity benefits ($87 million; 65%) or medical benefits ($47.2 million; 35%) for COVID-19 claims reported to insurance carriers through Dec. 31, 2022.
Insurance carriers and employers paid about $87 million in indemnity benefits on COVID-19 claims, consisting of $48.1 million in employer salary continuation, $32.9 million in workers’ compensation income benefits, $5.5 million in death benefits, and $484,092 in burial benefits.
The $47.2 million in medical payments consists of $35.5 million (75%) for hospital/facility services, $10.4 million (22%) for professional services, and $1.4 million (3%) for pharmacy services.
You may download the full report here.
Study Highlights Impact of COVID on Comp Benefits and Covered Jobs
Job losses during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic caused the largest decrease in jobs covered by workers’ compensation in a single year, according to a report from the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI).
NASI’s annual comprehensive study of trends in workers’ compensation reviews data from 2016 to 2020, the first year of the pandemic. It found that workers’ compensation covered almost 136 million jobs across the country in 2020, a drop of 2.1% during the five years covered by the report and 6.1% between 2019 and 2020. Despite the job losses in 2020, covered wages increased by 17% over the study period and by 1.6% in 2020.
Total benefits paid decreased between 2016 and 2020 to $58.9 billion from $62.7 billion. Total benefits paid increased by 0.5% between 2016 and 2019, but fell by 6% over the entire study period due to a 6.5% decrease in the first year of the pandemic. Cash benefits were stable, while medical benefits declined by 12% and by 11.4% between 2019 and 2020 alone.
The study also found the ratio of benefits paid to employer costs has fallen substantially in the past two decades. In 2000, benefits represented 76 cents of every dollar in employer costs. In 2020, that ratio had fallen by 17%, to 63 cents. The portion of workers’ compensation benefits paid under deductible provisions has grown substantially, from 13% in 2000 to 18% in 2020.
The report is available here.
Workers Assess Their Employers’ Management of Their Safety
Almost three out of four U.S. workers surveyed recently (71%) don’t think their employers follow through on safety promises, and 64% believe their employers don’t make an active effort to improve training.
AlertMedia, which provides emergency communication software to organizations, surveyed more than 2,000 full-time U.S. employees to understand their perceptions of safety in 2023 and give employers insights on better protecting their people. Among its key findings: 46% of respondents said they are more likely to stay with an employer who genuinely cares about their safety.
According to the survey, 49% of employees think the world is more dangerous today than a few years ago. Some 83% of respondents said they have experienced an emergency at work at some point in their careers.
More respondents said they are concerned about public health emergencies (66%), severe weather (61%), and technology failure (61%) than other potential emergencies affecting the workplace.
Other key findings include:
- 84% of employees think their employers can do more to make them feel prepared to face emergencies at work.
- 40% of employees believe safety training should be mandatory and regular.
- 40% of employees would feel unsafe at their workplace if their employer didn’t notify them about a safety incident.
- Only 26% of employees believe their feedback is considered when safety policies are created or updated.
When asked what their employer could do to make them feel more prepared, they pointed to the following:
- Regular updates on safety incidents and protocols (39%).
- Sharing who is responsible for emergency procedures (37%).
- Offering tips on how to stay safe (37%).
- Providing a direct line of communication in emergency situations (36%).
To review the complete survey, you may click here.
Survey Highlights Burnout in the Workplace
The number of U.S. workers who say they are burned out dropped slightly, to 46%, in 2022, down from 49% the year previous and 58% during the peak of the pandemic.
That’s according to a new survey from Eagle Hill Consulting. Younger workers (51%) and women (48%) continue to report higher levels of burnout, although their levels also have dipped. However, despite layoffs and economic turmoil, 30% of the workers said they plan to leave their job in the next 12 months.
Respondents’ top causes of burnout include workload (53%), staff shortages (44%), juggling personal and professional lives (41%), a lack of communication and support (39%), and time pressures (38%). Most employees who report burnout (62%) feel comfortable telling their manager or employer they feel burned out.
When asked to identify ways staff shortages are impacting their workload, 82% of workers said it requires covering the workload for unfilled positions, 37% said helping others learn their job, 39% said training new hires and 28% said recruiting and interviewing new hires.
Nearly three out of four workers (71%) said a four-day workweek would help. Other solutions mentioned include increased flexibility (66%), decreased workload (65%), better health and wellness benefits (60%), working from home (58%), reduced administrative burdens (55%), more on-site amenities (51%), and the ability to relocate or work from multiple locations (41%).
The survey was conducted Feb. 9-13, 2023, and included 1,001 respondents from a random sample of employees across the U.S. It is available here.
Workers Differ on Use of Mental Health Benefits
Generation Z and Millennial employees are more likely to have used mental health benefits offered by their employers than are Generation X employees and Baby Boomers, according to a recent survey.
The same survey found Generation Z and Millennial employees also place a higher value on mental health benefits than do their counterparts in Generation X and Baby Boomers.
The survey was conducted by Securian Financial, a leading provider of group life and supplemental health insurance benefits. It asked a representative sample of 2,500 working Americans about their experience with employee-offered mental health benefits.
The survey found 73% of Generation Z employees and 74% of Millennial employees had utilized their employers’ mental health benefits, compared to 58% of Generation X employees and 49% of Baby Boomer employees. Additionally, 65% of Generation Z and 60% of Millennial workers said it’s “very important” for their employers to provide mental wellness benefits. Just 49% of Generation X and 45% of Baby Boomer workers said the same.
The survey found three major reasons why employees do not use their mental health benefits:
- Two out of three employees (67%) said they feel they don’t have serious enough issues to use the services. Employees undervalue the versatility of the services provided and feel they are only for the most urgent needs.
- Worries about confidentiality are the second most common reason employees don’t use mental wellness benefits, cited by 13% of all employees who hadn’t used the benefits.
- Many Generation Z and Millennial employees are too overwhelmed or burned out. Some 21% of Generation Z and 20% of younger Millennial employees who hadn’t used mental wellness benefits said they don’t have enough time in the day to use the benefits.
The survey is available here.
With FDA Approval, Employers Consider Use of Naloxone to Reverse Opioid Overdose
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the over-the-counter use of naloxone nasal spray, which when administered timely can reverse an opioid overdose. Should it be in your organization’s first aid kit?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 464 workplace deaths in 2021 from an unintentional overdose of drugs or alcohol. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges organizations thinking about making naloxone available in the workplace to consider the following:
- Are there liability and legal considerations to address?
- Do you have staff willing to be trained and willing to provide naloxone?
- Has your workplace experienced an opioid overdose or had evidence of opioid drug use on-site (such as finding drugs, needles or other paraphernalia)?
- How quickly can professional emergency response personnel access your workplace?
- Does your workplace offer other first aid or emergency response interventions (first aid kits, AEDs, trained first aid providers)? Can naloxone be added?
- Are the risks for opioid overdose greater in your industry or among occupations at your workplace?
- Does your workplace have frequent visitors, clients, patients, or other members of the public who may be at increased risk of opioid overdose?
If the decision to establish a workplace naloxone program is made, policies and procedures should be developed in consultation with safety and health professionals. Involve the workplace safety committee (if present) and include worker representatives.
Include formal procedures for documenting incidents and managing those records, to include safeguarding the privacy of affected individuals. Maintain records related to staff roles and training.
Define clear roles and responsibilities for all persons designated to respond to a suspected overdose. Include these roles and responsibilities in existing first aid or emergency response policies and procedures.
More information about what to consider is available here.
The Washington Post
COVID is Still a Leading Cause of Death as the Virus Recedes
Millions of Americans gathered maskless in homes and houses of worship this month for Passover, Easter and Ramadan — the latest evidence that the coronavirus has retreated from public view as the pandemic winds down. Click here for full article.
Paxlovid May Reduce Long Covid Risk, but Access Is About to Get Worse
You probably know of Paxlovid as an antiviral drug that can help make COVID infections less severe. Now, a new study has found that Paxlovid reduces the risk of long COVID as well. Click here for full article.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Makes Progress in the Whole-of-Government Response to Long COVID
One year ago today, President Biden issued the Presidential Memorandum and Fact Sheet that directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to coordinate a whole-of-government response to the longer-term effects of COVID-19, including Long COVID and associated conditions. Click here for full article.
Why People May Be Forgetting Their COVID Pandemic Memories
As the United States continues to open up, and fewer restrictions and mitigation measures remain in place, it’s hard to imagine the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for full article.
National Institutes of Health
Frequent Testing Reduced COVID-19 Deaths in Nursing Facilities
During the COVID-19 pandemic, residents of skilled nursing facilities have been at particular risk of dying from the disease. These nursing facilities are for people who need daily medical care from trained professionals. Click here for full article.
Los Angeles Times
Another COVID-19 Booster Shot May Be Coming. But Interest Is Waning
As government officials close the book on the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, health authorities are turning their attention to the next chapter of the vaccination campaign. Click here for full article.
XBB.1.16 COVID Variant is ‘One to Watch’: Know the Symptoms to Keep Infection at Bay
The recent surge in Covid-19 cases in India has led to fear of infection among the population. Over 6,000 cases in India are being recorded daily in India. Renowned virologists find the new Covid-19 variant called XBB.1.16 as the main culprit behind the rapid surge in cases. Click here for full article.
mRNA Vaccine Beats Infection for Key Defense Against COVID-19, Stanford Medicine Scientists Find
The Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine directed at COVID-19 is much better than natural infection at revving up key immune cells called killer T cells to fight future infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, Stanford Medicine investigators have found. Click here for full article.
National Institutes of Health
Symptoms of Long COVID Differ for People of Different Racial and Ethnic Groups
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, a growing number of people are experiencing long-term symptoms and health problems following SARS-CoV-2 infection, a condition known as Long COVID. Click here for full article.
Free COVID testing will fade with US health emergency in May
When the COVID-19 public health emergency ends in the U.S. next month, you’ll still have access to a multitude of tests but with one big difference: Who pays for them. Click here for full article.
Risk & Insurance
Is Long-COVID a Simmering National Health Disaster? Here’s Why Some Experts Think So
While it’s tempting to think COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror, those who manage accommodation and leave requests and process claims know that this is not our reality. We haven’t seen a tsunami of Long COVID claims, which makes it easier to adopt an out-of-sight, out-of-mind philosophy. Click here for full article.
Texas Department of Insurance
Information for Workers’ Compensation Non-subscribers
If you are a non-subscriber you must file DWC Form-005, Employer Notice of No Coverage or Termination of Coverage, each year by April 30, or when you end your coverage. Click here for full article.
Understanding Alaska’s Unique Workers’ Compensation Rules: A Guide from Attorney Jason A. Weiner
As an employee in Alaska, it is essential to know your rights when it comes to workers’ compensation. In the event of a work-related injury, Alaska has a distinctive arrangement that is very favorable to the employee. Click here for full article.
Colorado Bill Would Increase Comp Attorneys Fees, Make Other Changes
Colorado lawmakers have introduced legislation that would make various changes to the state’s workers compensation system, including increasing legal fees in comp cases. Click here for full article.
Tampa Bay Times
Florida Workers’ Comp Fight Goes To Appeals Court
Workers’ compensation insurance companies have gone to an appeals court after an administrative law judge last month backed a state proposal that would set payment amounts for inpatient care at hospitals. Click here for full article.
Oklahoma’s Economic Outlook Ranked Among Nation’s Best
A new report ranks Oklahoma’s economic outlook among the best in the nation and finds Oklahoma has benefited from its largest level of positive domestic migration in a quarter-century. Click here for full article.
Oregon Capital Chronicle
Oregon Senate Passes Expanded Workers’ Compensation Bill
Oregonians who are hurt on the job may no longer need to dip into vacation and sick time when they go to medical appointments to get treated for their injuries. Click here for full article.
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nevada’s Workers’ Compensation System May See Some Changes
Voting along party lines, the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor passed a heavily amended bill Wednesday that will make significant changes to the workers’ compensation system. Click here for full article.
Virginia Lawyers Weekly
Court: No ‘Good Faith Exception’ to Workers’ Compensation Requirement
There is no “good faith exception” when it comes to hand-delivering a list of employer-approved doctors to an employee with compensable injuries as required by the Workers Compensation Act, the Court of Appeals of Virginia has held. Click here for full article.
Gradient AI Introduces WriteSpeed: The Out-of-the-Box AI Solution for Workers’ Compensation Underwriting
Gradient AI, a leading enterprise software provider of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions in the insurance industry, today announced the launch of WriteSpeed, a turnkey solution that allows workers’ compensation insurers to rapidly leverage AI-enabled underwriting, accelerating time to value. Click here for full article.
Judge Rules in Walmart’s Favor in Chesapeake Shooting Lawsuit — but Gives Former Employee Chance to Refile
Nearly five months after a horrific shooting killed six people at a Chesapeake Walmart, a judge in Chesapeake has allowed 30 more days for lawyers to gather additional evidence for a lawsuit filed against the retail giant. Click here for full article.
Workers’ Compensation Investigations: The Why, When, and How
Workers’ compensation claims are costly and can drag on for years. The average cost of a lost time claim (indemnity and medical only) in California has increased from $54,712 in 2018 to $58,843 in 2021, according to the Workers’ Compensation Rating Bureau (WCIRB). Click here for full article.
Report Finds Slight Increases In Comp Drug Costs
A reversal of a years-long trend that saw dips in drug use among injured workers, prescriptions in workers compensation inched up in 2022 with drug utilization per claim increasing 2.6%, costs per claim increasing 3.7%, and costs per prescription rising 1.1%, according to a report released Wednesday by Enlyte Group LLC. Click here for full article.
COVID Claims Slow To A Trickle As Pandemic Emergency Ends
An end to the pandemic national emergency does not mean an end to COVID-19 workers compensation claims, but claim activity has decreased dramatically, experts say. Click here for full article.
Inflation and Workers Compensation Medical Costs – Prescription Drugs
This last installment of NCCI’s series on inflation and workers compensation (WC) medical costs focuses on changes seen in drug costs and, in particular, how changes in opioid prescribing have impacted those cost trends. Click here for full article.
Best Workers Compensation Insurance Of April 2023
It is all too easy for mistakes to happen in the workplace. Just one accident can have significant consequences, and if you don’t have workers compensation insurance for your business, you could be found legally liable. That could cost you a lot—even your business. Click here for full article.
The Economic Impact of the Opioid Epidemic
There is strong evidence that the opioid epidemic has reduced labor force participation in the United States. While use of prescription opioids aimed at pain management for some individuals may enhance their ability to work, the widespread misuse of opioids has resulted in an epidemic of opioid use disorders (OUD), labor supply disruptions, and unprecedented deaths. Click here for full article.
Federal Workers Comp Program Risked Lethal Fentanyl Prescriptions
There were four opioid-related deaths of claimants in the U.S. Department of Labor’s federal employee workers compensation program in a six-year period, the agency said following an inspector general report that said a lack of oversight led to patients receiving “potentially lethal drugs.” Click here for full article.
Occupational Health & Safety
OSHA Publishes 2022 Injury, Illness Data
According to a news release, the Injury Tracking Application data contains information from over 300,000 establishments. Some of this information includes, per the downloaded document, total poisonings, total respiratory conditions and total days away from work. Click here for full article.
The Interplay of Workers’ Compensation, FMLA & ADA
When an employee becomes injured on the job, becomes ill, or has a disability they may be entitled to medical and/or disability-related leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Click here for full article.