Last week President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency and pledged federal resources to help combat the crisis that killed 64,000 people in the U.S. last year. In March, Trump signed an executive order to create the task force, Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The task force met for the final time last week before their Nov. 1 deadline to assemble final recommendations to the Trump administration.
SAME AS A NATIONAL EMERGENCY?
Not quite. A national emergency would allow states to tap into the same federal funds typically reserved for disasters like hurricanes and wildfires through the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. A public health emergency under the Public Health Services Act would allow agencies to waive regulations and give more states flexibility in how they use federal funds. Whereas a public health emergency can only last for 90 days but can be renewed any number of times and doesn't create any additional funding.
WORK COMP IN THE SUNSHINE STATE
A new report from the California Workers' Compensation Institute (CWCI) shows that nearly 70% of federal mandated and approved California workers' compensation Medicare set-aside (MSA) settlements for injured workers required funding for decades of opioid use, often at dangerously high levels and in conjunction with other high-risk drugs. California is working on implementing a workers' compensation drug formulary on January 1, 2018.
ON THE OTHER SIDE IN THE GRANITE STATE
New Hampshire Labor Secretary Ken Merrifield is interested in copying a Massachusetts pilot program to help injured workers who have settled workers' compensation claims get treatment for pain management. Merrifield noted that the top 10% of New Hampshire workers' compensation claimants who use opioids are averaging about 2.5 times the dose recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As always, we'll keep you informed on the ongoing efforts to combat this epidemic.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is testing a new law that went into effect last year. The law prohibits noncompete agreements for employees who make less than $13 an hour. She has reached settlements with several companies to have the clauses removed, but this is the first lawsuit. Currently, it's estimated that 30 million Americans - nearly one-fifth of the nation's work force - have a noncompete agreement.
Earlier this June, Nevada lawmakers amended its noncompete statute. The new law codifies that a noncompete agreement will be void and unreasonable unless it meets certain requirements. The most notable change is that the imposed restrictions are appropriate to the valuable consideration supporting the noncompete agreement - meaning the broader the restriction, the higher the valuable consideration. The law also gives the Nevada courts the ability to strike or modify unreasonable terms or provisions (a.k.a. "blue-penciling") and enforce the revised agreements.
Making Our Way Around The Country
The White House announced that President Trump will nominate FedEx Ground's safety chief Scott Mugno to lead the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Mugno will serve as Assistant Secretary of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health, and be in charge of enforcing workplace health and safety rules. Mugno is currently Vice President of Safety, Sustainability and Vehicle Maintenance at FedEx Ground and credits his safety-first philosophy to the company founder. OSHA has been without a head since January.
In a letter last week to the New York Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) Chairwoman Clarissa Rodriguez, Assembly Democrats criticized the WCB of rewriting workers' compensation guidelines that negatively impact the injured worker. During budget negotiations, the Assembly allowed the WCB to revise the guidelines to reflect advances in modern medicine and improved outcomes. Among some of the Assembly Dems concerns are new caps on impairments, reduced due process rights of claimants as well as limiting what evidence claimants can present to the board. The WCB released proposed guidelines and allowed public comment until Oct. 23. It has until Dec. 31 to implement the guidelines. The letter requests the WCB to redraft and resubmit the guidelines.
We'd like to take this opportunity to thank our readers. The Way is a 2017 Digital Award Finalist for PR News' email newsletter! PR News' Digital Awards is the industry's top honor in the digital communications space, recognizing outstanding digital initiatives among corporations, agencies, and nonprofits. Again, thank you for your feedback and continued support. Wish us luck next week!
About The Way
The Way is Gallagher Bassett's weekly governmental briefing on state and federal affairs that affect our industry. We thank you for starting your Wednesday morning with us. Please be sure to follow #GBTheWay for additional news and updates as we make our way throughout the country on the issues affecting our industry. For more information, please connect with GB on LinkedIn, follow us on Twitter, or contact the authors, Greg McKenna or Cari Miller, directly.