Federal Government - Closed, Open
Jan 24, 2018


The federal government reopened after President Donald Trump signed a funding bill Monday night ending a three-day government shutdown that began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. The bill, H.R. 195, will fund the government through Feb. 8. The fourth temporary funding bill since October passed Congress after both parties agreed to address the immigration status for people protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.





During the shutdown, the medical cannabis budget rider disappeared, meaning the Department of Justice could prosecute people using medical cannabis in states that have legalized it. Now that the temporary funding bill passed, the medical cannabis budget rider is back and people using state legalized medical cannabis cannot be prosecuted by the DOJ. Why is this important? Five states - Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New Mexico - have found medical marijuana is a permissible workers' compensation treatment.



Also during the shutdown, funding for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is governed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, expired. During the shutdown, NFIP was not able to issue new or renewal insurance policies and buyers were unable to close on properties needing flood insurance until NFIP was reauthorized under the new funding bill.



States that have been scrambling to fund their Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) can breathe a sigh of relief. The funding bill included CHIP authorization for six years. The bipartisan program furnishes coverage to nearly 9 million children and 375,000 pregnant women and expired last September. States, which share responsibility for CHIP, have been running out of money. Connecticut was the first to freeze enrollment right before Christmas and an estimated 20 states would have run out of money by February 1.



Congress has three weeks to come together to come up with another funding bill. We'll keep you posted on the negotiations.

What Folks Are Talking About - Davos 


The World Economic Forum, which brings together global figures committed to improving the state of the world, began its annual meeting in Davos yesterday. Ahead of that meeting, WEF released its annual global risks report. Out of the top five global risks, three are environmentally related - extreme weather events, natural disasters, and impact of climate change. The U.S. suffered 16 "billion dollar" disasters in 2017, tying the record set in 2011 for the most billion dollar disasters in a single year. However, the total cost of those disasters caused $306 billion in damage, breaking the previous $214 billion single-year record in 2005. Oh, and by the way, any healthcare costs or loss of life are not included in those numbers.



The Geneva Association, an international think tank of the insurance industry, released a new research report offering insights into the role the insurance industry in addressing climate change adaption and mitigation. Although the Association believes the insurance industry plays a crucial role in building financial resilience to climate risks and to support the transition to a low-carbon economy, there are several challenges hindering the industry's efforts to scale up its contribution. We'll be taking a closer look at the recommendations and challenges throughout the year as environment and climate change continue to remain some of the biggest risks in 2018.

Making Our Way Around the Country


The Indiana Senate Committee on Pensions and Labor passed and recommended S.B. 290 to the full Senate. The workers' compensation bill would penalize employers who fail to pay on time and establish a time frame for compensation payments. Among other things, the bill would allow the electronic filing of certain documents with the Workers' Compensation Board, increase the employer penalty for failure to provide proof of coverage, and give permanently totally disabled employees more time to reapply to the Second Injury Fund for wage replacement. The bill now moves to the full Senate.



The Washington House Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards will hold a hearing this Thursday on bill (H.B. 2812) that would give workers in the gig economy access to workers' compensation benefits, health insurance, paid time off, and a retirement program. The bill's author, Rep. Monica Stoiner, believes gig economy workers are classified as independent contractors so this bill could have a big impact on businesses that employ independent contractors. The bill would require companies with gig economy workers to contribute to an independent benefits administrator, an amount determined by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries. We'll keep an eye on this one.



Both Massachusetts and Indiana introduced bills to create a workers' compensation drug formulary this legislative session. The Massachusetts bill (CARE Act) is sponsored by Gov. Charlie Baker and would create an independent drug formulary. A Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery held an informational meeting on Tuesday where the Massachusetts Medical Society said it supported much of the bill aimed at curbing opioid addition. The Indiana bill (S.B. 369) would adopt the Official Disability Guidelines (ODG) formulary. As California is still in the midst of implementing its drug formulary and New York is working on its drug formulary, we'll be tracking these.



The flu is everywhere in the US right now - I know it's in Illinois as my family was hit by the flu - so I've been researching wellness and wellness trends. Employers are not only using wellness programs to reduce health risks and cut health care expenses but are also using wellness programs to attract and retain talent. All good things.


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