This week, numerous state legislatures reached the midway point of the 2018 legislative session. Several key workers' compensation measures are on the floor and up for debate.
The Kentucky House of Representatives passed legislation that would overhaul the state's workers' compensation system. H.B. 2 passed the Republican-led House 55-39, although not entirely along party lines. The proposed changes to the act include the creation of a drug formulary, a 15-year cap on claims from the date of injury (with an amendment that called for recertification filings if a worker is still suffering), increases to weekly wage caps, and the establishment of medical treatment guidelines and standards of care.
The Indiana State Senate passed a bill that would adopt a workers' compensation drug formulary based on the Official Disability Guidelines (ODG). The measure now moves to the Indiana House. Under S.B. 369, the drug formulary would prohibit workers' comp and occupational disease compensation reimbursement for drugs specified in the ODG. Watch the fast break, as the bill would require the adoption of the formulary by January 1, 2019.
The Virginia Legislature unanimously passed H.B. 558 which would address maximum fees for out-of-state medical providers. The bill clarifies the term “medical community” for medical providers under the Virginia Workers Compensation Act practicing outside of the Commonwealth. The providers' geo-location for reimbursement schedules would be determined by the zip code of the principal place of business of the injured worker's Virginia employer.
The Arizona House of Representatives passed a measure that would afford first responders suffering from PTSD workers' compensation benefits and access to specialized therapy and trauma counselors. The New Hampshire Senate approved a measure that would allow firefighters, police officers, and paramedics to apply for workers' compensation after receiving a diagnosis from a mental health professional, up to three years after the first responder retires or leaves the job. And in Florida, first responder PTSD legislation (H.B. 227) unanimously passed the House Government Operations and Technology Appropriations subcommittee. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Matt Willhite (D-Palm Beach), who is a fire captain and paramedic for Palm Beach County, would provide first responders full workers' compensation benefits for mental or nervous injuries, even if not accompanied by physical injuries. We'll be courtside for the second half.
PAVING THE WAY
Nebraska lawmakers are paving the way for self-driving cars and trucks in the Cornhusker State. Legislation in Lincoln would allow automated vehicles on state roads and highways, but require that testers continuously monitor them and take immediate control if necessary. In Utah, a house committee passed a bill that purports to outline basic requirements for autonomous vehicles in the Beehive State, including licensing, registration, and liability insurance. However, the insurance requirements were left “undefined” for the moment.
NAVIGATING THE COURSE
As autonomous trucks motor across the country in a test environment, the legislative landscape for autonomous vehicles seems to be accelerating to meet safety, technology, and staffing needs. The truck driving profession tops the 2018 Toughest Jobs to Fill report, which estimates that by 2026, there will some 108,400 driver positions available across the industry. The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation reported this week that transportation injuries are a leading cause of workplace deaths—some 40% of 2016's 5,200 workplace fatalities were transportation-related. Nationally more than 37,460 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, according to information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Making Our Way Around the Country
State insurance departments report rapid growth in captive insurance and a rise in legislative activity designed to support captive operations. This session, lawmakers in Topeka seek to modernize captive management and taxation rules in Kansas. Delaware looks to set a favorable extension for captive insurance programs to file annual reports and premium tax payments from March 1st to April 15th of each year. The Hawaii Department of Insurance released data on 30 new captive insurance companies in 2017, the highest number of Hawaiian captives licensed in a single year since 1986. In these lingering winter months, The Way may enforce a “trust, but personally verify approach” to Hawaii's captive data call.
The Alabama Legislature passed legislation to establish statewide regulations for ride-sharing companies. The bill is now with Governor Kay Ivey, who supports the legislation. Ride-sharing companies have operated in some Alabama cities under city regulations. Advocates for statewide regulations claim uniform rules are needed to help the services expand statewide. Under the measure, transportation network companies would conduct or have a third party conduct criminal background and driving history checks on drivers.
This week, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in a potentially far-reaching case that pits the interests of tech companies and data privacy advocates against the demands of U.S. law enforcement in obtaining information related to criminal and counterterrorism investigations when the information is held overseas. We're keeping watch.
LET'S HIT THE ROAD
Tomorrow, the U.S. Department of Transportation will host a listening session to gather perspectives from truck manufacturers, automakers, groups representing the logistics and labor sectors, and commuters ahead of the release of the latest policy guidance on automated vehicles. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao indicated the new “Automated Vehicles 3.0” will be unveiled this year, which will expand previous freight-centric guidance. Stay tuned. We will be following these developments and more as we focus on transportation-related news and information across the channels of The Network this March.