Work Comp Nation Blog

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Register Today!


It is that time of year! We are excited to share that registration is open for the 72nd Annual Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference! Our team has been working tirelessly to ensure that this year’s conference is the best one yet.

The 2017 conference will be held at the Orlando World Center Marriott from August 6-9. Our program committee has prepared engaging sessions and presentations that won't disappoint. We expect to have over 500 speakers, 300 exhibitors, 250 sessions, and 7,000 attendees.

Back by popular demand, the 2017 conference will include social and service events such as a star studded concert (previous talent includes Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Styx), golf tournament, and service day/gala benefiting Give Kids the World.

Be sure to register by March 6 to receive the discounted early bird price. If you have any questions regarding sponsorships, advertising, or exhibiting, please contact Cathy Bowman at or (850) 425-8186.

We look forward to seeing you in August!

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Last Call


By Joan E. Collier

The 71st annual Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference is over. The four-day feast offered more speakers, more attendees, more presentations, more exhibitors, more sponsors, more partnerships, more volunteers and money for our service project, more of everything than at any time in its history.

All of which leaves me with mixed feelings as I tell you that this conference was my last one. Retirement beckons on August 31. I am, as many a politician has said, “retiring to spend more time with my family.” Although, with me, that’s actually true—no lurid headlines or coverups accompany my fade into the sunset.

It has been a long and satisfying adventure. I began my workers’ compensation career in the early 1980s as the public relations manager for the then-fledging FCCI, back when a million-dollar month was a big deal. In the intervening 35-plus years, I’ve worked for some real characters—and a few bandits.

I’m proud to be ending...

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Don’t Tell Your Boss, but It’s not All Work at #WCI2016


By Joan E. Collier

As important as the 300+ sessions and presentations are, there’s more to the 71st annual Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference than what you’ll learn in the classrooms.

Here’s a rundown on some of our extracurricular activities.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday:

Do Some Good!

Come to Orlando early! You’ll beat the long lines at check-in, and also be a do-gooder.

WCI supports “Give Kids the World,” an Orlando-based camp for children with life-threatening illnesses. Show support for this very worthy cause by participating in service projects on Friday, August 19, Saturday, August 20, or Sunday, August 21. Special hotel rates of $99 for Friday and Saturday nights are available for who register for the conference and participate in these events. Pre-registration is required.  

Last year we had our biggest turnout of volunteers ever, and we’ve expanded our opportunities to participate this year. Here’s the schedule for volunteers:

Friday, August 19 (Evening Shift) 5:00...

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Finally, Some Good News About Opioids


By Joan E. Collier

Texas is making some big boasts about the success of its workers’ compensation pharmacy closed formulary.  

When the state adopted the system in 2010, new injury claims became subject to the pharmacy closed formulary beginning Sept. 1, 2011; legacy claims became subject to the formulary two years later, on Sept. 1, 2013.

The formulary requires pre-authorization for investigational and experimental drugs, any non-FDA approved drugs, and, most importantly, compounds that include N-drugs and all medications with an “N" status under the Official Disability Guidelines—including many opioids.

It is the N-drug statistics in a new report from the Texas Department of Insurance, Workers’ Compensation Research and Evaluation Group, that I want to draw your attention to. The report, says that, in a review of pharmacy services for all claims (new and legacy claims by service year):

Between FSY 2011 (pre-formulary) and FSY 2014 (post-formulary for legacy claims), the number of injured employees receiving N-drugs fell by 83 percent. Those receiving Other drugs fell by 12 percent. The number of N-drug...

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Discounting Danger


By Joan E. Collier

On June 30, the U.S. Department of Labor made a rather big production in announcing that fines would be going up in several departments when companies were found in violation of safety laws and regulations. The departments involved include the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs.

(Everyone is familiar with OSHA. The MSHA oversees mining operations throughout the country, and the OWCP administers the Division of Federal Employees' Compensation, the Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation, the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation, and the Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation.)

The department’s release said, in part, “In 2015, Congress passed the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act to advance the effectiveness of civil monetary penalties and to maintain their deterrent effect. The new law directs agencies to adjust their penalties for inflation each year using a much more straightforward method than previously available, and requires agencies to publish &ldquo...

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Oh Boy, Bagels


By Joan E. Collier

I was at my favorite bagel place for lunch recently. It’s a neighborhood non-chain little haven where the servers call me “Miss Joan,” and the owners post rules that say we should all be kind to one another.

Its clientele is mostly singles or couples stopping in for a nosh and coffee—a non-Starbucks kind of place happily devoid of pretense. It also is mostly devoid of children, given its menu offerings.

However, one little boy (quite well behaved) was inside the cafe the other day, sipping on apple juice and getting a sugar high from his pastry. The place has outdoor seating, and the boy spied a dog on the patio and started to go outside to pet him. Anyone who has been around little boys knows that their speed knows no limit when dogs are concerned. He barreled through the swinging door to get outside. Unfortunately, a server was coming in, carrying a tray and looking ahead, not down. She missed the 4...

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Talking Economics in the Land of Lincoln


By Joan E. Collier

Illinois surely has had its share of troubles lately, most centering on the violence in its largest city, Chicago. The economic news, however, is equally bleak.

According to a May report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois and Alaska were tied in April 2016 for the highest unemployment rate in the nation, at 6.6 percent.  As a point of reference, South Dakota and New Hampshire had the lowest jobless rates in April, 2.5 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, speaking to reporters last week in Springfield, said, “The Democrats have spent our state into the toilet for 30 years.” Umm. OK. That’s a nice sound bite, but Illinois has had Republican governors for 18 of the past 30 years—there’s enough blame to go around.

In a recent blog, Michael Lucci, vice president of policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, calls the unemployment rate “a testimony to the state’s weak economy and its poor business climate.”...

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Pot, Pills and Us


By Joan E. Collier

If it’s not pot, it’s pills.

On Wednesday, the same day that the Louisiana House of Representatives passed a bill expanding that state's medical marijuana program (and one day after the Ohio House passed its own nascent measure), CNN aired a Town Hall hosted by Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the opioid epidemic.

If the Ohio bill passes the state Senate and is signed by the governor, we will pass the halfway mark of medical marijuana approval in the state count. Currently, 24 states and Washington D.C. have legalized cannabis for medical use; a number of other states have legislative initiatives pending. The acceptance of recreational marijuana seems to be gaining favor also, albeit more slowly.

Opioids have done what none of the “reefer madness” films ever accomplished—make marijuana seem relatively safe. The opioid problem is so widespread that we now have commercials for a drug to help the constipation that results from taking these prescription...

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Safe at Home


By Joan E. Collier

Exposure to Zika, a mosquito-borne and sexually-transmitted virus that causes the birth defect microcephaly and other neurological disorders, currently is occurring exclusively outside U.S. borders. However, while we may be safe at home in the continental U.S., the dangers of exposure present themselves as we travel.

The latest stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show:

Travel-associated Zika virus disease cases reported: 388 Locally acquired (inside the U.S.) vector-borne cases reported: 0 Pregnant: 33 Sexually transmitted: 8 Guillain-Barré syndrome: 1

Of the 388 cases, 84 were reported in Florida, 60 New York, and 29 in California.

The numbers are different (and more troubling) in U.S. Territories:

Travel-associated cases reported: 3 Locally acquired cases reported: 500 Pregnant: 48 Guillain-Barré syndrome: 4

Of the 500 cases, 474 were reported in Puerto Rico, 14 in American Samoa, and 12 in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

To their credit, the CDC, OSHA, NIOSH, and other governmental agencies have been proactive in crafting and issuing safety guidelines to prevent or minimize exposure.

The newest...

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Babies and Bath Water



Here in Florida, the state Supreme Court is currently hearing Daniel Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital. The case is well known throughout Florida, but for others, here’s a recap, courtesy of the Florida law firm Colodny Fass.

[Florida passed a massive workers’ compensation reform package in 2003.]

“In December 2003, two months after the reforms took effect, Stahl suffered a lower back while working as a nurse at Hialeah Hospital. He initially filed suit in Circuit Court but a judge dismissed his claim. Stahl, who suffered a seven-percent permanent disability, appealed to the Third District Court of Appeal, which upheld the lower court ruling and also admonished Stahl.

“At that point, Stahl entered the workers' compensation system and appealed several determinations that were made against him, explained.

“One of the appeals to the First District Court of Appeal involved a determination that he be required to pay a $10 co-payment for his physician visits because he was considered to have reached ...

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Who’s on Call?


By Joan E. Collier

An investigative report by News Channel 4 in New York City reveals that the state Workers' Compensation Board is sending claimants to doctors who don’t accept workers’ compensation patients because of outdated records.

One claimant, a supermarket worker who experienced bleeding in his eye after falling off a ladder, says that after four years, he still cannot find an eye surgeon to perform the procedure needed to scrape blood off of his retina.

The news media’s I-Team says that it called 64 eye specialists listed as serving Brooklyn on the state's Workers' Compensation Health Provider Search; two-thirds of the doctors’ offices reported that they don’t participate in the program.

Can we dismiss this and similar scenarios with a shrug and a “stuff happens,” or is it more problematic and systemic than that?

Back in the old days, when offices were considered state-of-the-art if they were equipped with electric typewriters, we could excuse a delay in information...

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Chicago Is Better Than This


By Joan E. Collier

Ah, Chicago. My favorite big town. The Sears Tower (sorry, Willis), Wrigley Field, the Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier, and, of course, the eternal and boundless political cronyism.

Chicago media is reporting the latest scandal. Edward Burke, chair of the City Council’s Finance Committee, is being publicly accused of allowing “political hacks” to administer the city’s $100 million-a-year workers’ compensation program.

Burke, 72, is alderman of the 14th Ward. A Democrat, he was first elected to the Chicago City Council in 1969, and represents part of the city's Southwest Side.

The Sun Times reports that, “Jay Stone, the maverick son of former longtime Ald. Bernard Stone (50th), filed a complaint with Inspector General Joe Ferguson, asking Ferguson to investigate” Burke. Stone says that Burke put “his handpicked political appointees” in charge of the program, in violation of the Shakman decree banning political hiring.

The Shakman saga is an interesting story in and of itself, unique to Chicago.<...

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Not a Lot of Options Out There


By Joan E. Collier

The numbers do not appear to be working for proponents of optional workers’ compensation plans. We have 50 states, and only two—Texas and Oklahoma—allow employers to opt in/out of workplace insurance coverage. Texas has allowed private employers to choose whether or not to provide workers' compensation insurance coverage for their employees since the inception of its system 100 years ago; Oklahoma lawmakers made the change in 2013.

The Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation (ARAWC) is the driving force behind optional efforts nationwide. Its website lists Tennessee and South Carolina has “state priorities” for passing legislation. 

The Tennessee Option (aka The Employee Injury Benefit Alternative legislation—HB 997/SB 721) was dealt a substantial setback a week ago when the Tennessee House Consumer Affairs Committee canceled a hearing on the legislation. The opt-out proposal now has been removed from the legislative calendar for the year, making it unlikely that it will come up for a vote in 2016.

One of the...

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Safety Pays in Indiana


By Joan E. Collier

Anyone who still thinks that safety doesn’t pay needs to talk to employees at Indiana’s Portage Township School system.

The school district includes eight elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school.

A few years ago, school officials couldn’t find anyone willing to write their workers’ compensation coverage. Claims were passing the $1 million mark, and carriers said “no thanks.” Left with little choice, the district went the self-insurance route and hired a third party administrator to oversee the program. 

Officials also decided to do something about the district’s dismal claim and workplace injury numbers. 

They created a districtwide plan around one powerful message: ABC—Always Be Careful. The plan’s four key elements were awareness, training, accountability, and recognition. The program was led by a safety team made up of people from every employee location and classification. Monthly meetings kept the team on track.

The result? In 2015,...

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Shining Light on the Sunshine State: The DWC Annual Report


By Joan E. Collier

For all you policy and data wonks out there, the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation has issued its annual report, replete with enough graphs and numbers to satisfy anyone. The report is remarkably free of hyperbole (ProPublica should take note) while presenting a comprehensive picture of the division’s various teams along with the requisite data on claims and costs. 

Some of the key information regarding Fiscal Year 2014-015:

In the contentious world of physician dispensing, the report offers some compelling graphs showing the astronomical difference in costs between pharmacy-dispensed and physician-repackaged medications (although significant progress is being made in reducing the instances of physician dispensing—see page 45).  Costs for lost-time claims were comprised of 68 percent medical, 20 percent indemnity, and 12 percent settlement, compared to 55.2 percent, 21 percent, and 23 percent respectively in 2008 (see page 53). Why the big drop in settlements?   Strains continue to be the leading cause of lost-time claims, far outpacing all other injuries. Indeed, the “injury” graph shows a notable consistency on...

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The ‘Tennessee Option:’ Take Two UPDATE


By Joan E. Collier

The Tennessee Legislature convenes on Jan. 12, 2016, and the “Tennessee Option”—an opt-in, opt-out workers’ compensation proposal—appears high on the agenda, judging by the press it is getting.  

In the last few days, The Tennessean and the Commercial Appeal have published guest columns from supporters on both sides of the issue.

Back in February, Republican Tennessee State Sen. Mark Green and State Rep. Jeremy Durham introduced Senate Bill 721 and House Bill 0997, respectively. The Tennessee Employee Injury Benefit Alternative sought to amend the state’s current workers’ compensation requirements through a “free-market alternative to traditional workers’ compensation insurance offerings in the state,” according to the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation (ARAWC). ARAWC has been a driving force behind this and similar initiatives in other states.

In essence, the proposal would allow private employers to opt-out of private insurance plans and implement their own either fully insured or self-insured occupational injury benefit plans for their...

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Registration Is Open!


By Joan E. Collier

By popular demand, we have opened registration for the 71st annual Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference. Many of you have asked that we provide this service early so you can get your calendars and budgets prepared.

As of this week, you can go online and register for the August 21 - 24 conference, to be held once again at the Orlando World Center Marriott. Register now, and get the special early bird price of $280! The Marriott also is taking room reservations now.

Our program committee has already met to prepare the sessions and presentations for 2016. It’s a huge undertaking organizing hundreds of speakers, and we pretty much begin as soon as the old conference ends each year.  

I’ll try to keep you updated as to speakers and events as those details become available. I can tell you now that our popular social and service events will be included in 2016. That means a concert (cannot release a name yet—in 2015 it was Joan Jett ...

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Rhetoric and Reality


By Joan E. Collier

In the past nine months, ProPublica and NPR have jointly published over a dozen scathing articles demonizing the workers’ compensation system in this country. The articles featured personal interest stories designed to tug at our heartstrings, depicting lawyers, lawmakers, and insurers running roughshod over injured workers.

Recently, The Center for Public Integrity joined the fray with a piece focusing on occupational disease claims. The reporter follows the theme that has proved so effective in the ProPublica/NPR pieces: personal stories handpicked from the annals of “they done me wrong” cases.

I’ll leave it to you to decide if you want to wade through the 6,000-word article. Suffice it to say, we do not come out of it looking good.

However, once you strip away the rhetoric, the report does make several salient points (assuming the research noted is valid): “When workers’ compensation systems were first set up in the U.S., the major known risk an employee faced was traumatic...

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Can You Hear Us Now?


By Joan E. Collier

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Here’s a corollary: If the court decides something but doesn’t issue a written opinion, do we hear about it?   Let's look at who/what made news, and who/what did not.   Two Florida cases, Castellanos v. Next Door Company, et al. and Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg—both challenging the constitutionality of the state Workers’ Compensation Act and now before the state Supreme Court—have received wide coverage even outside the Sunshine State.

Castellanos asks the court to decide whether the award of attorney’s fees in that case, awarded under an unyielding statutory formula, is adequate, consistent with the access to courts, due process, equal protection, and other requirements of the Florida and Federal constitutions—or so inadequate, in absence of any alternative fee measure, as to violate those constitutional safeguards.

The question before the court in Westphal also focuses...

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You Can’t Go Bankrupt if It’s Illegal


By Joan E. Collier

Well, this is an interesting turn of events. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Arizona recently held that if a debtor’s business is illegal under federal law, the creditor can’t file an involuntary bankruptcy petition against the debtor.

Here’s the story.

Mike Danzer of 7511 IRA Investments, LLC, Jason Jensen, and Robert Brown filed an involuntary chapter 7 petition against Medpoint Management, LLC back in October 2014.

Medpoint Management oversaw the operations of Arizona Nature’s Wellness (ANW), an Arizona nonprofit entity that holds an Arizona Department of Health Services-issued Dispensary Certificate. The Certificate allows ANW to operate the “Bloom”-branded medical marijuana dispensary under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA).

AMMA requires that all state-registered dispensaries “be operated on a not-for-profit basis,” and that dispensaries’ bylaws “contain such provisions relative to the disposition of revenues and receipts to establish and maintain [their] nonprofit character.” A.R.S. § 36-2806(A). The result has...

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