A Tribute to First Responders
Sep 11, 2019


In February, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which ensures compensation for individuals injured during the 2001 terrorist attacks, the aftermath of rescuing people, and removing debris under hazardous condition, announced that it would need to significantly reduce awards in the face of dwindling resources and a surge of claims.  Fortunately with the help of the late Luis Alvarez, a 9/11 first responder, Congress came together and later in July President Donald Trump signed the extension of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which ensures the compensation of victims through 2090.  Today marks the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks and first responders are still suffering the health effects of the tragedy.



Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed two bills that would help prevent suicide and promote mental wellness among first responders.  The bills establish a peer support program for first responders that focuses on wellness and suicide prevention and creates a training course that all Illinois law enforcement must complete on officer wellness and suicide prevention.  It also creates an 18-member task force to study first responder suicides.  More than 6% of first responders have attempted suicide, a rate 10 times higher than the general population.   



Texas lawmakers passed a bill that changed the definition of a first responder beginning Sept. 1.  A first responder now includes emergency dispatchers, who providing critical communication during an emergency and can also encounter stressful and potentially traumatic events while performing their duties.  This bill gives dispatchers the same benefits and protections under state law as all other first responders.



There are over 25 million first responders in the U.S.  A special thank you to all the first responders, including members of my own family. 


Vaping Issues


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used her executive authority to impose a six-month ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in stores and online.  Health officials say flavored vaping products attract kids.  She will also restrict marketing, preventing companies from advertising vaping products as harmless.  Last year, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams declared e-cigarette use among kids an epidemic as high school student usage surged nearly 78% and middle school usage increased nearly 50% in 2018.  New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to propose legislation to ban the possession, manufacture, sale, and distribution of flavored e-cigarettes.



Kanas health officials announced that a sixth person in the U.S. has died from lung disease related to vaping.  There have been more than 450 possible cases of lung illness associated with using e-cigarettes reported to the CDC across 33 states.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that investigating the illnesses linked with vaping remains a top priority, and they are aggressively enforcing the law as to claims of safety and investing in campaigns to education youth on the dangers of e-cigarettes.  Democratic Whip Sen. Dick Durbin will call for FDA Commissioner Norman Sharpless’ resignation within 10 days if he doesn’t move to regulate e-cigarettes and flavors within the next 10 days.


Making Our Way Around the Country


Seven states and the District of Columbia sued to block rules adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that would allow brokers to recommend products that benefit them as long as they disclose the conflict.  In the filling, the states of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, and the District of Columbia argued the rule change is “arbitrary and capricious.”  The rules will be implemented by June 30, 2020.  We’ll keep an eye on this one.



In case you missed it, Illinois adopted rule changes to the Workers’ Compensation Electronic and Standardized Paper Billing.  One of the changes pertains to paying workers’ compensation provider claims.  Under the rule, any electronically submitted bills determined to be complete but not paid or objected to within 30 days are subject to a 1% monthly interest charge.  Medical providers can sue in circuit court for non-payment of the interest only.  The rule also provides that when a payer rejects or denies an electronic bill, the payer has to provide a written explanation of benefits (EOB).  An EOB form has been approved by the Workers’ Compensation Commission but it is still awaiting review by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.  We’ll let you know when the final EOB is published.



Due to the difficulties of insuring terrorism risk and concerns about the availability of terrorism coverage after the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), which created a federal “backstop” for insurance claims related to acts of terrorism by providing a shared private and public compensation system.  This program was last reauthorized in 2015 and is set to expire at the end of 2020.  Congress already has its eye on TRIA as the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on it this past June.  But with less than 18 months until TRIA expires, it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder that the insurance industry needs to keep an eye on this.  Especially today.



We pause this week to remember all who were affected by the September 11th attacks


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