The Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC) met today for the first time since May, updating stakeholders on legislative actions in the last Session and the status of the ongoing Medical Treatment Guidelines (MTGs) updates undertaken by the Medical Advisory Council (MAC).
Office of Workers’ Compensation Assistant Secretary and WCAC Chair Sheral Kellar informed the Council and public that there is currently a vacancy on the Council for a business representative. The position was previously held by physical therapist Jerry Jones. Interested parties should contact the Governor’s office of boards and commissions.
Chuck Davoli, Vice Chair of the Council and labor representative, presented a nine page update to the Council about legislation he followed during the 2019 Legislative Session, which concluded in May. He cited several “collateral issues” to workers’ comp among the bills he tracked, including bills on terrorizing judges and medical marijuana. Davoli noted that among the bills that passed, five were opioid-related, three were pharmacy-related, and one involved marijuana. Workers’ comp is still excluded from medical marijuana legislation, although Davoli said he expects that to change eventually.
Darrick Lee, Fraud Section Manager, provided an update on the fraud unit’s activities and what stakeholders can expect moving forward, now that another attorney is on staff in his office to help with cases. Chief among Lee’s updates was that he has now created a special partnership with the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney to handle workers’ comp fraud cases. The arrangement is similar to that between Texas Mutual and the Houston District Attorney to prosecute cases, primarily against employers who misclassify workers.
Lee presented data that shows 263 cases have been resolved in 2018-2019, versus 70 cases in 2017-2018. Total penalties assessed were $176,450 for 2018-2019. The GAME ON Task Force, which focuses on employer misclassification and includes several agencies including the OWC and the USDOL Wage and Hour Division, is actively pursuing tips and leads.
Dr. Jason Picard, OWC Medical Director, provided an update on the MAC’s activities on the MTGs. The chronic pain and complex regional pain syndrome updates are complete and will be distributed for review in the next several weeks, the next update will be low back pain. Kellar told the Council and the public that the updates are moving forward, with the low back pain update expected to be done this year on in early 2020.
Laura Hart Bryan, NCCI State Relations Executive for Louisiana, presented a preview of the NCCI State Advisory Forum, which will take place on November 19th at the Crowne Plaza in Baton Rouge. She contrasted Louisiana with NCCI’s countrywide numbers, emphasizing that Louisiana is generally in line with the countrywide picture, and even on the lower end of the loss cost decreases observed in other states. The countrywide combined ratio currently sits at 83 percent, which is the lowest NCCI has seen since 1931. In Louisiana, combined ratios are considerably higher, but have been relatively stable over the last few years. Louisiana’s combined ratio in 2017 was 110 percent and 111 percent in 2016. Lost time claim frequency and severity are also stable. NCCI is predicting net written premium to hit $48.6 billion countrywide this year, the best since the Great Recession.
On a personnel note, Bryan told the Council that she is stepping down from her position at NCCI in a couple of weeks. The new State Relations Executive for Louisiana will be Clarissa Preston, who previously worked with the Louisiana Department of Insurance.
Kellar also brought attention to the latest WCRI report, which focused on interstate variations in opioid prescribing. Louisiana, though seeing decreases, is still well outside of WCRI’s median among its 27 study states. “We intend to do more as an agency,” she said. “I invite suggestions from anyone in the workers’ compensation community.” Kellar issued a statement to Louisiana Comp Blog last week about the report, read it here.
The next WCAC meeting will be held on September 26th.
Council members present 8/22/19 (not a quorum): Kellar, Davoli, Cherry, Stokes, Dartez, Lindsey, Morris, Zimmerman