Larry Frieman, newly-elected Louisiana Representative for District 74, ran on what he calls a “small government, fiscally conservative and socially conservative platform,” but it’s his experience in the workers’ compensation space as an attorney with Juge, Napolitano, Guilbeau, Ruli & Frieman that is likely to interest some local stakeholders the most.
Since the departure of Rep. Chris Broadwater from the Louisiana House of Representatives last year, lawmakers who are particularly reform-minded in the workers’ comp arena have been largely absent. For supporters of more explicitly business-friendly practices, Frieman’s election could mean a revived push for measures like a closed pharmacy formulary.
The Louisiana GOP won a supermajority in the Senate during the October 12th primary, but the Louisiana Legislature’s hyperconservative bent is tempered by the re-election of Governor John Bel Edwards, a victory that was far from assured leading into the runoff election on November 16th. As the new Legislature looks toward the 2020 Session, Louisiana Comp Blog spoke to Frieman about Governor Edwards’ second term and his own priorities.
Regarding the results of the gubernatorial race, Frieman was unequivocal. “That is not going to curtail my objectives,” he said. “Tax reform, reducing spending, budget reform, lowering insurance costs, and the like. I’m still going to pursue those goals no matter who the governor is.”
As a corollary to the governor’s influence, Frieman also seeks to address issues he sees with the Office of Workers’ Compensation. In particular, he’d like to see the Medical Director position become more balanced, saying that he’s seen a “swing of the pendulum” toward approvals in his practice.
Like some stakeholders have previously suggested, Frieman said he would support a change in the requirements for the Medical Director job to find a wider pool of candidates, increasing the likelihood that one could be found that all sides could generally agree on. “They’re reading a set of guidelines and deciding whether the treatment is covered in those guidelines, why do we need a doctor for that? I’m not advocating for a layperson, but a nurse practitioner or a PA, someone with medical training, could do that,” he said.
Similarly, Frieman stated that he is concerned with the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council’s (WCAC) activity. “I am not, and never was, even during the Jindal administration, in favor of the Labor Committee refusing to consider bills unless it’s approved by the Advisory Council. They’re unelected bureaucrats, not elected officials,” he said. “File your bill, bring it to the Committee, and let the Committee decide – that’s what we’re elected to do.”
Frieman said that he’d prefer the WCAC to limit their actions to analysis. “They can issue comments, notes, or even a recommendation if they want to, with reasons,” he offered. “Just don’t tell us for it or against it, tell us why. And we can use that material to consider. But to say that they have some gatekeeper-type function is to me totally ridiculous.”
As for other hot button issues likely to be discussed in next year’s Legislative Session, Frieman expressed a general willingness to debate.
On medical marijuana, he explained that he would need to be convinced. “I don’t have a problem expanding it, if you can show me some scientific evidence that it’s a viable treatment for that condition.” Further, stating that he “is comfortable with where we are now,” Frieman said that he is reluctant to remove the exclusion for workers’ comp that currently exists in Louisiana’s medical marijuana statute, adding that the novelty of such treatment could create a slippery slope.
Frieman also advocated for a comprehensive fee schedule update, including a fix for what he called the “90 percent of infinity is infinity” element of outpatient billing, and a possible closed pharmacy formulary.
In a previous interview with Louisiana Comp Blog, Frieman voiced an interest in the Labor and Industrial Relations Committee and the Insurance Committee. Those determinations are further down the road, but he confirmed that his office will make an announcement once those assignments are set.