Texas officials released the most extensive disclosure of flood data to date involving Hurricane Harvey. The storm, which caused $125 billion in damages, affected significant parts of Harris County and the greater Houston area. Hurricane Harvey damaged more than 204,000 homes and apartment buildings in Harris County with almost three-quarters of them outside the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved 100-year flood plain, leaving tens of thousands of homeowners uninsured.
FOLKS ARE RISIN' FOR ANOTHER DAY
This week, Houston "recovery czar" Marvin Odum said a majority of flood mitigation and resiliency efforts in response to Hurricane Harvey could be completed within a decade. Odum is spearheading a number of projects after Harvey including reservoir construction and a deep tunnel concept, as federal funding begins to flow into Houston. Later today, the Houston City Council will vote on a proposed ordinance that calls for all new structures in the city to be built two feet above 100-year and 500-year floodplains to avoid a repeat of last year's massive flooding.
'ROUND ABOUT THEIR HOMES
In related news, federal officials say flood insurance premiums will rise again this year. Some homeowners will see increases much larger than 8 percent -- up to 25 percent for vacation homes, commercial properties, and homes with repeated flood losses. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has received about 91,000 claims from Texans affected by Harvey and paid out $8.26 billion, for an average claim of $90,769. The NFIP provides coverage for 5 million policy holders nationwide, but faces another Congressional reauthorization before July 31. As NFIP reauthorization remains atop the RIMS legislative agenda, your authors at The Way will keep a close eye on this federal risk and insurance issue.
EVERY DAY THERE'S A NEW THING COMIN'
And in Austin, the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers' Compensation (TDI-DWC) seeks input on the development of an Opioids Plan-Based Audit (Plan-Based Audit) to evaluate the appropriateness of a health care provider's decision-making and recordkeeping that supports prescribing opioids for each treatment plan tailored to a specific injured employee. The Plan-Based Audit sets the scope, methodology, selection criteria, and program area responsibilities according to the Medical Quality Review Process. Stakeholders can submit suggestions for this Plan-Based Audit by email by Monday, April 16th. We're keeping watch around all parts of the Lone Star State.
Health Care Risk Management
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice vetoed a bill last week that would have allowed certified nursing assistants to distribute medicine to people living in nursing homes after going through some limited training. The governor wrote in his veto letter of House Bill 4199, "[l]essening the professional standards for those caring for nursing home residents would inevitably result in diminished care."
HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS
In a related move, Governor Justice signed into law a West Virginia bill that aims to allow health care providers to not prescribe opioids. Senate Bill 273 makes it illegal for a person or entity to threaten or punish a health care provider for refusing to administer, dispense, or prescribe opioid painkillers. This includes reduction of privileges or compensation. State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey called for the legislature to establish this anti-retaliation bill, citing evidence to suggest that providers feel pressure to treat pain with addictive painkillers, in part due to a perceived need to be scored well on patient satisfaction surveys.
Making Our Way Around the Country
The Oregon Workers' Compensation Division proposed changes to its worker-leasing rules to clarify licensing and record-keeping requirements, including reporting of workers' compensation data for each client. The rules would define the responsibilities of worker-leasing companies to provide workers' compensation coverage for their clients and requirements in cases where a client's WC policy covers leased workers.
The Kentucky legislature passed legislation to exclude radiologists from the list of specialists who can diagnose black lung disease among miners seeking workers' compensation for their illness. Under House Bill 2, only pulmonologists can diagnose black lung disease for Kentucky's workers' compensation program. There are six pulmonologists in Kentucky. If the measure is signed into law by Governor Matt Bevin, Kentucky would be the only state to exclude radiologists from the evaluation process.
A Kentucky state appellate court struck down a provision of the state's Workers' Compensation Act related to workers seeking PPD income benefits for occupational hearing loss resulting from traumatic ear injuries. The appellate court held that a state provision that imposes a much higher impairment rating threshold on hearing loss claimants than required of all other traumatic injury claimants violates the equal protection guarantees of the Federal and Kentucky Constitutions.
DOWN AROUND SAN ANTONE
Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats for their 2018 National Championship run and for demonstrating good ladder safety while cutting down the nets. As the final four college basketball teams leave the Alamo City, the top teams in risk and insurance are on their way to San Antonio as the RIMS Annual Conference and Exhibition tips off on April 15th. We look forward to connecting with you at the conference. If you are heading to the conference, drop us a line, or please come see us at Booth #2137 in the Exhibition Hall. See you in Texas!