News Bulletins

In local news:

An ex-NOPD officer who became an advocate for marijuana after a work injury left him in chronic pain and addicted to opioids was recently profiled by the Advocate. Jerry Kaczmarek severely injured his shoulder when an armed robbery suspect slammed into his police cruiser. He had to retire early and was constantly taking pain medicine, which grew into an addiction. After moving with his family to Colorado and confrontation with his wife and son that changed him, he experimented with legal marijuana in Colorado and discovered that he could use it to treat bth his chronic pain and his withdrawal from opioids. Now, Kaczmarek is lobbying the Louisiana Legislature to get chronic pain added to the list of conditions that the Louisiana medical marijuana program will recognize.

Read the entire piece here.

In regulatory news:

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has written about the opioid crisis and its effect on insurance markets in the April 2017 edition of IIABL’s “Louisiana Agent” online magazine.

Download (Donelon piece on page 33): IIABL Louisiana Agent April 2017

In national news:

Property/Casualty 360 published a look at how construction companies sometimes illegally hide workers in shell companies in order to avoid paying for workers’ comp coverage. The authors trace the trend to 2000s-era Florida, explaining:

“Shell schemes in construction have risen to new levels of scope and sophistication in the last 10 years. Networks of dishonest specialty contractors, labor brokers, facilitators, paid straw shell owners and check-cashing stores can avoid far more workers’ comp premiums and taxes than the traditional premium scams. Shell schemes also have spread to other states, especially states with large construction activity.”

Interested in employer fraud issues? We covered Louisiana’s new efforts to prevent it and discussed it at the last Louisiana Comp Blog “Comp in Focus” industry luncheon. Check out pictures from the event here.

Read more about the “shell game” here.

In national news:

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas recently announced the shutdown of a $40 million fraudulent medical billing and kickback operation with the filing of charges against more than two dozen doctors, pharmacists and business owners. The case involves several clinics in Beverly Hills – Monarch Medical Group, Inc., King Medical Management, Inc. and One Source Laboratoires, Inc. From 2011 to 2015, the defendants are charged for their part in the fraudulent scheme of recruiting pharmacists and other doctors and billing for unnecessary creams, tests and treatments to maximize profits.

Read more here.

In neighboring news:

Two key figures in a Mobile, Alabama “pill mill” case were sentenced last week. In May 2015, agents raided two Physicians’ Pain Specialists of Alabama (PPSA) clinics in Mobile as part of a massive multi-state sweep led by the DEA. In late February 2017, the doctors who owned the clinics were found guilty on a slate of charges ranging from improper prescription practices for highly addictive painkillers to healthcare fraud and financial fraud. The two defendants sentenced last Wednesday, including a subcontractor who had managed a workers’ comp dispensary at the clinics, received light sentences at the same hearing after testifying in the case against the owners. The ringleaders are expected to soon receive sentences at the higher end of the allowable range.

Read more via AL.com here.

In industry news:

A.M. BestTV’s new episode provides a look at the 2017 RIMS conference which begins today in Philadelphia, the birthplace of U.S. insurance. Additional full length interviews as the conference proceeds will be found at www.ambest.tv/rims17.

Watch the first episode here and the first panel discussion (on data analytics) here.

In continuing news:

The Florida House approved a workers’ compensation bill intended to answer the Florida Supreme Court’s objections to the system by adding flexibility on attorney fees in benefits challenges, and by boosting benefits for injured workers. The measure (HB 7085) passed on a vote of 82-37, shortly before the Senate bill cleared the Rules Committee. Speaking to Florida Politics, Danny Burgess, whose Insurance and Banking Subcommittee heard the bill, said measure would close a “statutory gap” in disability benefits and extend them from the existing 104 to 260 weeks; require carriers to grant or deny benefits quickly; and ensure appointment of a worker representative to a state panel that sets medical reimbursement rates.

Further coverage here.

In industry news:

Despite rising uncertainty and increasingly more complex risk profiles, businesses saw a decline in the total cost of risk (TCOR) for the third year in a row, according to the 2017 RIMS Benchmark Survey. The Benchmark Survey, produced with Advisen, defines TCOR as the cost of insurance, plus the costs of the losses that are retained and the administrative costs of the risk management department.

Read key findings and download the report from RIMS here.

In neighboring news:

Texas Mutual Insurance Co. announced that its board of directors voted unanimously to approve a company-record $260 million dividend distribution in 2017. Qualifying policyholder owners across Texas will share the dividend, which will be distributed beginning in June. Texas Mutual has paid more than $2.2 billion in dividends over the last 19 years, with over $1 billion of that paid in the last five years alone.

More via Insurance Journal here.

In research news:

NCCI released its latest Quarterly Economics Briefing newsletter. Among the findings:

  • After slowing in 2016, private employment growth is projected to continue to slow this year and next year.
  • Average weekly wages are forecast to accelerate due to tightening labor market conditions.
  • Medical inflation is forecast to slow slightly to 3.4 percent this year and continue at that pace in 2018.

The report also includes a survey of state manufacturing presence and also discusses how the rise of automation and supply chain decentralization has contributed to long-term trends in manufacturing output, employment, and productivity.

Download: NCCI Quarterly Economics Briefing March 2017