Following last week's actual fireworks on the National Mall, we take a look at some of the federal affairs across Washington affecting the risk and insurance industry.
President Trump announced his selection of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh, a native of Washington, D.C., currently sits on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a tribunal that regularly deals with decisions about federal regulatory agencies and the administrative state. Legal commentators suggest that Judge Kavanaugh's lead and dissenting opinions generally lean toward reining in the power of regulatory agencies. We'll keep an eye on the confirmation process, which is expected to proceed this fall, ahead of the Mid-Term elections.
The Senate Appropriations Committee filed a report along with the appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, which contains a discussion of "Barriers to Research" with respect to medical marijuana. The Committee expressed concern that the drug's Schedule 1 status under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) effectively limits the amount and type of research on its medicinal use. The Senate panel is directing the National Institute on Drug Abuse to report on the barriers to marijuana research. Stating a growing concern for a rapidly changing landscape on the recreational use of marijuana, the Committee also directed the National Institutes of Health to coordinate multi-institute research on the effect of increased marijuana use on the human body and on the cognitive abilities required to operate motor vehicles.
A new database from the U.S. Department of Occupational and Safety Administration (OSHA) offers access to safety profiles and information on workplace chemicals. Pooling data from various government agencies and organizations, the OSHA Occupational Chemical Database lists chemical identification, physical properties, permissible exposure limits, sampling information and additional resources for each substance. We've got our eyes safely trained on the District this summer.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed into law House Bill 8215, a bill that limits the amount that injured workers and their dependents can receive from the state's uninsured employer fund. The measure renames the fund the "Rhode Island Uninsured Protection Fund" and sets a new benefit limit of $50,000, plus attorneys' fees related to the claim. Affected employers will be required to reimburse the fund for benefits and fees paid on compensable injuries.
The Florida Chief Financial Officer reported that insurance carriers in the Sunshine State can expect to pay some $20 million less this year into two of the state's mandated workers' compensation funds. The Florida Department of Financial Service (DFS) reports that the cost reductions are a direct result of the sound financial management of the Workers' Compensation Administration Trust Fund and the Special Disability Trust Fund. DFS credited the Bureau of Compliance's enforcement actions, an increase of exemption applications, fines, and a decrease in cost of living adjustments to seriously injured claimants.
Making Our Way Around the Country
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts signed into law L.B. 953, a workers' compensation reform bill. The measure will allow more workers to settle claims faster, even if some medical bills remain in dispute, so long as their counsel vouch that the settlement is in the best interest of the worker. This is particularly relevant when Medicare set-asides are on the table. Until now, parties to a lump-sum settlement submitted a set-aside to Medicare, resulting in a waiting period for approval. The process takes effect on July 19th.
Governor David Ige enacted a measure to improve Hawaiian firefighters' access to comprehensive medical care under the state's workers' compensation system. Under H.B. 1778, Hawaiian doctors who treat firefighters for compensable claims of leukemia, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or organ-related cancers shall now receive increased fees for medical care, services, and supplies. Medical costs to employers will increase to 110% - 150% of fees prescribed in the Medicare Resource Based Relative Value Scale (MRBRVS) applicable to Hawaii as prepared by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
In related news, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) advised employers that special precautions must be taken to protect workers from hazards from wildfire smoke. Smoke from wildfires contains chemicals, gases, and fine particles that can harm health. Guidance for employers and workers on working safely in conditions with heavy smoke caused by the wildfires is available on Cal/OSHA's web page, including frequently asked questions about N95 masks for employers and workers.
ATLANTIC STORM SEASON
The National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Center researchers have decreased their forecast for the Atlantic storm season. They believe that 2018 will have below-average activity. Downgraded Tropical Storm Beryl had been the first hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Chris was close to becoming a hurricane as it sat in the Atlantic Ocean over 200 miles off the coast of the Carolinas, according to an update Monday night from the Hurricane Center. Stay tuned to The Network for breaking news and helpful information about severe weather affecting our industry.