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February 01, 2004 7:11 AM
Workers' Compensation News - February 1, 2004 Volume 2 Issue 5
NJ JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS
Geist says he expects to accept judge appointment
Sen. George Geist said Friday that he plans to accept an appointment to the judiciary if approved by the state Senate, capping months of speculation since his November defeat by Democrat Fred Madden.
Gloucester County Times
http://www.nj.com/news/gloucester/index.ssf?/base/news-1/1073726178247570.xml
 
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WORKER AWARDED $12 MILLION - WC BAD FAITH
Court awards $12 million in workers' compensation case
A former nursing home worker has been awarded more than $12 million in a judgment against three insurance companies that denied her workers' compensation claim. The Rapid City jury returned its verdict - $60,000 in compensatory damages and $12 million in punitive damages - last week after a a four-day trial in federal court.''An insurance adjuster is supposed to be like a judge, fair and impartial. ... If you bribe a judge, you get thrown in jail. But they bribe these claims adjusters with bounties that are tied directly to their performance in paying claims.''
http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?BRD=1300&dept_id=156931&newsid=10853181&PAG=461&rfi=9
 
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MEDICARE AFTER THE 2003 AMENDMENTS
This paper offers a comprehensive review of these issues. It was written by Ed Welch, the Director of the Workers' Compensation Center at Michigan State University. It has been revised and updated in January of 2003.
http://www.lir.msu.edu/wcc/Medicare/Medicare%20Web%2004.pdf
 
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FL: PETITION TO REPEAL THE FL WORKERS' COMPENSATION ACT
Repeal Workers' Compensation Law
Target: Jeb Bush Governor State of Florida
We, the undersigned residents and employees of the State of Florida, believe that the Workers' Compensation costs to the states' employers have become oppressive and are forcing businesses to leave Florida or not locate in this state. We also believe that those employers that remain have no real incentive to provide safe workplaces for their employees. As employees, we are unhappy with the benefits provided and the poor medical care that has become part of the system.
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/479124355?ts=1074742219&sign[partnerID]=1&sign[memberID]=190270963&sign[partner_userID]=190270963#top
 
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CALIF: CALIFORNIA WORKERS’ COMP INSURERS SUFFER RECORD LOSSES FOR 7TH CONSECUTIVE YEAR
Skyrocketing Costs Keep Market Unstable and Unprofitable: Employers Won’t See Major Savings Without a System Overhaul, says AIA
SACRAMENTO, CA, Jan. 21, 2004 – Insurers selling workers’ compensation coverage in California suffered their seventh straight year of losses, according to new profitability data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the American Insurance Association (AIA) reported today.
http://www.aiadc.org/DocFrame.asp?DocID=11470
 
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MANY WORKERS IN LARGE FIRMS FIND HEALTH COVERAGE NOT INCLUDED
One of the benefits of working for a large firm used to be access to free, or at least affordable, health insurance coverage. But researchers studying health insurance trends are now finding that to an increasing extent, having health benefits is no longer a guarantee for many Americans working for the nation's biggest employers. From 1987 to 2001, the proportion of uninsured workers who were employed by firms with 500 or more employees grew from 25 percent to 32 percent. During the same period, the proportion working in small businesses (fewer than 100 employees) or mid-sized ones (100 to 499 employees) declined.
In the Commonwealth Fund report, The Growing Share of Uninsured Workers Employed by Large Firms, Sherry Glied and Sarah Little of Columbia University and Jeanne M. Lambrew of George Washington University say that while big employers are still much more likely than small ones to offer health coverage, workers in large firms, together with their dependents, comprise a significant and growing share of the working uninsured.
As of 2001, more than one of four (26%) of the nation's uninsured—nearly 10 million Americans—worked for firms with 500 or more employees or were dependents of those workers. A number of workforce changes in recent decades appear to be contributing to this largely unreported phenomenon, including declines in manufacturing jobs and unionization rates, restrictions placed on benefit eligibility, higher employee premium contributions, and structural changes at large corporations.
The Commonwealth Fund
http://www.cmwf.org/publist/quarterly/fal03qrtonline.asp?link=6#link1
 
Related: Presidential Proposals
http://www.cmwf.org/programs/insurance/collins_reformagenda_671.pdf
 
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HEALTH CARE - DEVIATING FROM AN INTEGRATED HEATH CARE PLAN FOR WC OR NOT REALLY?
Sen. Kennedy To Propose Universal Health Care Plan
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) on Thursday is expected to announce legislation that would require some employers to offer health insurance to employees and create a National Health Benefits Program for people who do not qualify for employer-sponsored or current public health plans, the Boston Globe reports (Dembner, Boston Globe, 1/22). Under the plan, to be announced today at a speech at Families USA in Washington, D.C., employers with 50 or more employees would be required to provide health coverage to employees, with the federal government paying costs that exceed 12% of their payrolls, according to the AP/Las Vegas Sun. Employers with between five and 50 workers could either offer health coverage or contribute to the national program, while employees in firms with fewer than five employees could rely on the national program (Baldor, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 1/21). The plan would require most large employers and profitable smaller employers to pay 75% of the cost of employees' health plans (Boston Globe, 1/22).
FEHBP Model. The national health program would be modeled after the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and enrollees "would be able to choose from several private health plans" and pay premiums based on their income, with the federal government paying the remainder, the Washington Times reports (Fagan, Washington Times, 1/22). The plan would cost the federal government an estimated $100 billion annually, the Globe reports. According to the Globe, aides for Kennedy said that cost would be "completely offset over a decade" because of other measures in the bill, including provisions to expand disease prevention programs; make administration in health plans and hospitals more efficient; allow prescription drugs to be imported from Canada and European Union nations; and authorize Medicare to negotiate prices directly with drug companies (Boston Globe, 1/22). According to the Census Bureau, about 61% of U.S. residents in 2002 had employer-sponsored health coverage; almost all businesses with more than 200 employees and % of small employers offer coverage In a draft of his speech, Kennedy says, "We have it in our power to make the fundamental human right to health care a reality for all Americans. I say let's get it done -- if not this year, then next year with a new Congress and a new administration elected with a mandate to get it done" (Boston Globe, 1/22). Kennedy spokesperson Jim Manley said that the Bush administration has "been AWOL when it comes to providing health care for the uninsured," adding that Bush's health proposals mentioned in his State of the Union address are too partisan and will not pass Congress, particularly in an election year (Washington Times, 1/22). In his speech Tuesday, Bush said Congress should pass legislation that would permit the formation of association health plans, give tax credits to help people purchase private health insurance, cap awards in medical malpractice lawsuits to help decrease insurance premiums and encourage people to purchase health savings accounts (Kaisehttp://cme.kff.org/Key=1638.D7w.F.D.D725q1
 
GENERATION GRIPE: Young doctors less dedicated, hardworking?
Some older physicians believe the new breed's emphasis on their own lives puts patients second.
http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/02/02/prl20202.htm
 
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ASBESTOS / MESOTHELIOMA RECOVERY
Belated Benefit: It's Small Consolation to Toronto Man Who Lost Long-time Partner to Rare Disease
Edmond Grant, a fit and active Toronto man, suddenly felt weak during a Christmas dinner with friends. He lay on a couch, not realizing his lung had collapsed.
Seven painful and frightening months later he died, likely because of asbestos insulation he swept up while working in a British Columbia bakery three decades earlier.
Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1074986107948&call_pageid=970599119419
 
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EMPLOYER SENTANCED FOR DEATH OF WORKER
'Cavalier' boss gets jail term for scaffold deaths
A US judge has sentenced a construction boss to a minimum 3½ year jail term after five immigrant workers were killed in what was a 'tragic certainty' rather than an accident. State Supreme Court Justice Rena Uviller said she imposed the 3½ to 10½ year sentence on Philip Minucci, 32, to reflect 'the magnitude of the tragedy.' She added: 'This sentence will, I trust, serve as a warning to others who, in pursuit of their own economic interests, care to be cavalier about the lives of others.' The five labourers killed were among 20 masonry workers on a job in Manhattan on 24 October 2001
http://www.nynewsday.com/news/local/manhattan/nyc-nysent153627070jan15,0,3773583.story?coll=nyc-topheadlines-left
 
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MEDICAL LITERATURE
LUNG CANCER: Multidisciplinary Management
In 2004, an estimated 173,700 Americans will receive a diagnosis of lung cancer, and 164,440 of them will die of the disease. Despite years of research, the prognosis for patients with lung cancer remains dismal, with a five-year survival rate of 14 percent. Nevertheless, lung cancer may be curable in its early stages, and most patients derive some benefit from treatment such as longer survival or amelioration of symptoms
New England Journal of Medicine, Alexander Spira, M.D., Ph.D., and David S. Ettinger, M.D.
http://content.nejm.org/content/vol350/issue4/index.shtml?query=TOC
 
PTSD sufferers store memories differently in brain
People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appear to store traumatic memories in a different part of their brains than others, a brain study shows. The finding may explain why PTSD sufferers can be haunted by those memories for years on end.
One of the hallmarks of PTSD is recurrent flashbacks of traumatic events, during which people relive the experience in vivid images. In contrast, people without PTSD are just as likely to experience and remember traumatic events, but are not haunted by their memories in the same way, the lead author of the study explained in an interview.
Reuters Health
http://www.reutershealth.com/archive/2004/01/23/eline/links/20040123elin001.html
 
BREAST CANCER RISK INCREASED IN AIRLINE CABINET ATTENDANTS
The association between length of employment and risk of breast cancer, adjusted for reproductive factors, indicates that occupational factors may be an important cause of breast cancer among cabin attendants; the association is compatible with a long induction period.
Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2003;60:807-809
http://oem.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/abstract/60/11/807
 
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SLEEP DEFICIT comparable to drunkenness
Continuous sleep deficit causes a serious safety risk at the workplace, a sleep expert has warned. Neurologist Markku Partinen said: 'A tired employee more readily takes risks than a well rested employee, as tiredness weakens attentiveness and observation.' He added: 'In the long run a tired employee is no good to the employer, either. Even where loss of life and serious catastrophes are avoided, the financial losses may be really serious.' According to Partinen, a 16-hour period without sleep already poses a significant risk, and is comparable to a blood alcohol content of 0.5gm per millilitre. Staying awake for 24 hours is comparable to a blood alcohol content of 1.0gm per millilitre, over the UK drink driving limit, and 36 hours without sleep corresponds to drunkenness of 1.5gm per millilitre, more than double the UK limit. According to Partinen, the cheapest preventive occupational safety measure would be good quality sleep.
http://www.artto.kaapeli.fi/unions/T2004/h02
 
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INSURANCE COMPANY RATINGS
Fitch Dwngrs PMA Re's IFS Rtg To 'CC'; Remains On Watch Neg
http://home.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20040122005866&newsLang=en
Fitch Ratings has downgraded the insurer financial strength (IFS) rating of PMA Capital Insurance Company (PMA Re) to 'CC' from 'BB+' and the rating remains on Rating Watch Negative. No action was taken on the senior debt rating and the IFS ratings of the primary insurance subsidiaries, listed below.
 
Fitch Assigns 'A-' IFS Rating to Ohio Casualty; Affirms 'BBB-' Debt Ratings
Fitch Ratings has assigned an insurer financial strength rating of 'A-' to Ohio Casualty Group's intercompany pool members (see member list below). In addition, Fitch has affirmed the 'BBB-' senior debt rating and 'BBB-' long-term issuer rating of Ohio Casualty Corporation. The Rating Outlook is Stable.
http://home.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20040121005643&newsLang=en
 
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SMOKE FREE DC WORKPLACES
Citizens File Ballot Initiative for a Smokefree DC
Nation's capital could be next major smokefree city joining NYC, LA, and Boston
Residents of the nation's capital will be voting this November on a smokefree workplace ballot initiative. The initiative, filed today, will require a safe, healthy, smokefree workplace for ALL District of Columbia workers. Sharlene Krantz, the initiative proposer, lost her husband to lung cancer after long-term exposure to tobacco smoke in his workplace. "Secondhand smoke kills. It causes lung cancer, respiratory illness, and heart disease," says Ms. Krantz. "Unfortunately, I know it firsthand." "With this initiative, we have a chance to save lives and give DC workers a safe, healthy, smokefree workplace environment."
http://www.smokefreedc.org/petition.htm
 
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CALENDAR
 
Healthy Schools Forum
NJ Work Environment Council
Friday, February 20: , Cosponsored by WEC, the Education Law Center and others. (Rutgers University, Livingston Campus Center, New Brunswick.)
http://www.njwec.org/
 
Top Ten Hot Issues in Workers'Compensation - NJ
NJ ICLE Cosponsored by WILG-NJ
Wednesday, April 14:
ICLE, New Brunswick, NJ
http://www.njicle.com
 
NYCOSH’S 25th Anniversary Awards Celebration
Friday, May 14th, 2004 6 - 8:30 P.M.
http://www.nycosh.org/calendar.html
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