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Work Loss Data Institute (WLDI) releases 2012 State report cards for Workers' Comp

The WLDI tracks trends and gives states a grade and tier rating based on OSHA Forms 300 and 200. The report compares outcome measures in terms of incident rates, lost work days, medical disability durations, delayed recovery and key conditions. For more information, visit

Deadline for Health Benefit summaries delayed

The U.S. Departments of Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services-the federal agencies responsible for implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)-announced via an online frequently asked question (FAQ) response that they will not require sponsors of group health plans to comply with the requirement to create and distribute to employees a standardized "summary of benefits and coverage" (SBC) and uniform glossary by March 23, 2012, as they had originally proposed.

The agencies said that compliance with the SBC requirement will not be required until the agencies publish a final rule with a new applicability date providing sufficient time for group health plans to comply.

Michigan updates Workers' Comp law

Under the bill, injured workers receiving benefits must take a job that is within their skill set that they can physically perform, if it is available to them. If not, they risk losing the compensation benefit. The bill also codifies past legal decisions to provide statutory consistency, clarifies compensability issues of mental disabilities and pre-existing conditions and reorganizes the mediation system for contested benefits to insure that decisions move more quickly.

Bankruptcy of self-insured trusts disrupt New York small businesses

Failed negotiation efforts have resulted in the state initiating steps to attach the assets of thousands of small businesses that participated in 17 now bankrupt group self-insured trusts. The businesses argue that they were victims of a Ponzi scheme and that the New York State Workers' Compensation Board regularly affirmed the financial worthiness of the trusts.

Washington State program dramatically reduces lost work time

A new study, published in the December 2011 issue of the American Public Health Association journal, Medical Care, of occupational health care in Washington state shows that improving medical care for injured workers can dramatically reduce lost work time. Several years ago, the state established COHEs that are community-based organizations working with medical providers to implement "best practices" aimed at the safe, healthy return of injured workers to full function and full employment. Examples of best practices include promptly filing the Workers' Compensation claim, phoning the employer to talk about the worker's ability to return to work or a light-duty job, and regularly assessing a worker's ability to do work activities.

Injured workers treated by health-care providers operating under COHE best practices had 19.7% fewer disability days than other injured workers receiving treatment, and a reduction in total disability and medical costs of $510 per claim.

Workers suffering from back strain had a reduction in disability days of 29.5%.

Back pain MRI may be unnecessary - study

According to an article in Reuters, people who get steroid injections to ease back pain do not need an MRI scan, which does little to help doctors assess and treat patients but adds significant costs. Steroid injections in the back are among the most common treatments at pain clinics, and doctors routinely order a magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scan before treatment, which can cost $1,500. The study suggests that an MRI is unlikely to avert a procedure, diminish complications or improve outcomes.

Commercial motor vehicle drivers banned from using handheld cellphones

The Department of Transportation issued a final rule that bans commercial motor vehicle drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. CMV drivers who violate the final rule will face penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification from operating a CMV for multiple offenses. Additionally, states can suspend a driver's commercial driver's license after two or more serious traffic violations. Commercial truck and bus companies that allow their drivers to use handheld cell phones while driving will face a maximum penalty of $11,000.

However, CMV drivers may use handheld mobile devices while driving under special circumstances. They also are permitted to use hands-free devices, provided that the operation of the device entails pushing no more than one button and does not require the driver to look away from the road.

The ban is effective January 3, 2012.