Traffic Time Again
Aug 15, 2018


The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) examined a recent increase in the frequency and severity of workers’ compensation claims for motor vehicle accidents (MVAs).  It found MVA claims tend to represent a higher share of the costliest claims.  Over a five-year period, MVA claims accounted for 28% of claims above $500,000, versus just 5% of all claims.



Not necessarily.  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a research group, tested five cars’ automatic braking systems, adaptive cruise control systems, and active lane-keeping systems and found some worrying problems with the technology.  The IIHS found some driver assist systems might not notice stopped vehicles and could even steer cars into a crash rather than away from it.



Even as a rash of incidents involving autonomous vehicles has eroded consumer confidence in self-driving vehicles, companies are trying to keep on track with launch schedules as growth is expected to increase more than tenfold from 2019 to 2026.  Waymo plans to debut its commercial ride-hailing service using driverless minivans later this year.  And as Uber shuttered its autonomous truck program last month, others are still on track.  However, truck drivers won’t be affected for a while.  A new study from the American Center for Mobility claims the rise of autonomous trucks won’t affect trucker drivers in the next 10 years.



Without a federal legislative effort, 50 states and the District of Columbia will have to come up with their own laws.  Stalled in the Senate, the AV START Act would open rules for testing and deploying self-driving vehicles, address liability, exempt more vehicles from rules designed for conventional vehicles, and preempt state regulation of the vehicles.  We’ll keep following the lanes to see where this takes us.


A Look Toward the Midterms


The midterm election won’t be here for another three months but voters have already stated that their number one issue is healthcare.  The main healthcare issues topping the list: prescription drugs, single payer coverage, Medicare and Medicare funding, and the opioid crisis.  A plan is circulating in Ohio where the state would create a publicly funded universal healthcare system.  State Rep. Teresa Fedor is sponsoring the Ohio Health Security Act (H.B. 440), which would fund the single payer plan in the form of tax hikes. 



The Trump administration announced a new rule that will help reduce prescription drug prices for seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans (MAPs).  Under the new rule, seniors enrolled in MAPs (Part C) who have signed up for prescription drug coverage under Part D will now be able to benefit from competition among a broader range of medicines.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said MAPs will be allowed to require that patients first try certain lower-cost drugs before moving to a more expensive alternative if the first treatment is not effective.  The changes could take effect as early as 2019.


Making Our Way Around the Country


The federal District Court for the Western District of Texas held that the federal Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) preempts the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act’s restrictions on air ambulance rates and billing.  The court concluded that because the ADA preempts, the state is prohibited from enforcing state laws limiting reimbursement amounts that workers’ compensation insurers pay for air ambulance services.  The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4), which would require air ambulance providers to distinguish between charges for air transportation and medical services in the bills they send to patients and insurers, is still stalled in the Senate. The bill would help states as it specifies that “non-air transportation services” of air ambulance providers, and the prices attached to those services, are neither services nor prices of an air carrier for purposes of the ADA.



The Vermont Department of Labor is looking for comments on its proposed rules to the Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Disease Rules.  The proposed rules clarify the timeframe for reporting a first aid only claim is five days, clarify that an approved medical  treatment preauthorization request expires if it’s not acted upon within six months, and change the average weekly wage calculation to include (rather than exclude) paid leave time during the 26 weeks prior to injury.  The proposed rules also update the Vermont Department of Health’s Rule Governing the Prescribing of Opioids for Pain as well as clarify the manner in which attorney fee rates are increased as the Consumer Price Index increases.  The deadline for comments is August 31, 2018.


WCI 2018

The WCI 73rd Annual Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference begins this weekend.  Greg, myself, and over a hundred GB colleagues will join over 1,000 volunteers in participating in the day of service at Give Kids the World Village.  If we miss you there, come find us!  We’ll be speaking at several sessions and supporting other GB speakers throughout the conference.  We look forward to seeing everyone soon!


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