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Things you should know

Disturbing findings from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries - highest number of fatalities in 12 years

Key findings from the 2019 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries:

End of FFCRA could have implications for comp claims

The new COVID-19 relief package did not extend requirements for employers to provide emergency paid sick leave or emergency paid family and medical leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) past the original Dec. 31, 2020 expiration date. Although employers can use the FFCRA tax credit until March 31, 2021 if employers voluntarily continue to provide FFCRA paid leave benefits to their employees, the act did not increase the amount of leave available to employees, so employers cannot claim the tax credit for employees who have already utilized all of their FFCRA leave entitlement.

Some experts suggest that workers infected with the virus or forced to quarantine over possible exposure used paid sick leave instead of filing workers' compensation claims. Employers should be aware of this, as well as state and local leave laws.

New law requires Medicare to provide beneficiary status

One of the continuing resolutions to keep the government operating made it easier for comp insurers to avoid lawsuits in some Medicare set-aside plans. Under the Provide Accurate Information Directly (PAID) Act, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) must provide applicable insurance plans, including workers' compensation, access to Medicare beneficiary enrollment status in Medicare Advantage and Part D Prescription Drug plans. Currently, there is no such centralized process or system for insurers to obtain this information and Medicare Advantage Plans can sue insurers for "double damages" under the MSP in relation to their recovery claim.

The CMS has until December 11, 2021 to implement the act.

DOL issues guidance on telemedicine visits to support FMLA leave as well as electronic posting of notices

Earlier in the pandemic, the DOL had allowed telemedicine visits under the FMLA through December 31, 2020, and new guidance now makes the concept permanent. The visit must be an examination, evaluation, or treatment by a health care provider, permitted and accepted by state licensing authorities, and performed by video conferencing (a telephone call, letter, email, or text message are not sufficient).

Additional guidance outlines when electronic posting of the general notice explaining the FMLA's provisions and providing information concerning the procedures for filing complaints of violations will satisfy the FMLA posting requirements is acceptable.

Lost productivity linked to workers' comp declines, but rises for FMLA leave and short-term disability

While lost productivity attributed to workers' compensation has declined over the past four years, workdays lost to short-term and long-term disability and Family and Medical Leave Act leave have increased, according to a study from the Integrated Benefits Institute. For the period 2015 - 2019, lost workdays per employee related to workers' compensation decreased by 13% each year while workdays lost to short-term disability and long-term disability leave increased by 11% and 3% each year, respectively. During those four years, lost workdays for sick leave increased 12%, and lost workdays due to FMLA leave increased 33%.

Violence against health care workers escalating - study

A study, The Persistent Pandemic of Violence Against Health Care Workers, in the American Journal of Managed Care highlights the problems of violence that are plaguing the industry and suggests steps that should be taken to decrease the incidence of violence against health care workers.

EPA final rule limits farmers' responsibility for protecting workers from pesticides

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a final rule that revises the pesticide application exclusion zone requirement in the agency's standard on agricultural worker protection. The rule went into effect Dec. 29.

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