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The WSIA Weekly, 7.14.17

We were out last Friday, so catching up on a few items today...

On the blog: Inslee vetoes modest occupational disease study
As Olympia-watchers know, Governor Jay Inslee signed the state's 2-year operating budget just before midnight on June 30th to forestall the possibility of a government shutdown on July 1. We were pleased to see that in the hastily-assembled and voted budget, there was a provision directing the Department of Labor & Industries to obtain outside consultation and report back on several issues related to occupational disease coverage. This provision (and a couple other, non-workers' comp directives) appeared to be compromises in order for the Department to obtain most of its requested funding. Surprisingly, though, Governor Inslee vetoed those directives, including the occupational disease study. Read our blog post on the issue to learn more about what the Governor apparently doesn't want investigated in our workers' comp system.

Paid Family & Medical Leave Insurance bill signed into law
Also last week, the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance bill we've been following was formally signed into law, making Washington the fifth state in the nation to adopt such a program. Administration of the program by the Employment Security Department starts ramping up this fall, with collection of a 0.4 percent payroll tax starting January 1, 2019, and benefits available for individual and family leave reasons starting January 1, 2020. There is a voluntary plan/self-insurance aspect to the program as well. We are currently in the process of developing a training for our members on the new law in general, its intersection with other disability/leave laws, and its self-insurance option. In the meantime, you can get a copy of the law here, and the Legislature's summary of it here.

Latest Health Policy News for self-insured employers
The latest edition of the Department of Labor & Industries' bi-monthly Health Policy News sheet is out, describing work underway on the medical side of workers' compensation. Of interest to members will be the discussion of an upcoming pilot program for acupuncture, as well as the ongoing update to the Department's treatment guideline on Foot & Ankle conditions which, as we reported a couple weeks ago, includes a new and substantial expansion of work-related causation for plantar fasciitis. See the newsletter here.

OSHA announces $10.5 million in safety grants available
Earlier today, the US Department of Labor announced the availability of $10.5 million in worker training and safety grants available to "fund training and education for workers and employers to help them identify and prevent workplace safety and health hazards." Ostensibly similar to Washington's Safety & Health Improvement Project (SHIP) grant program, these grants appear to have broader eligibility criteria, including potentially self-insured employers. Take a look at the news release here, and read more about the grant program and how to apply here

Department publishes semi-annual rulemaking agenda
The Department of Labor & Industries published yesterday its semi-annual rulemaking agenda, covering its intended scope of regulation through the end of the year. As you can see, there is substantial activity around the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Given the state of flux at federal OSHA on several regulations began under the prior administration, it will be interesting to see if the Department maintains its position of regulating only to be "at least as effective" as OSHA, or to go well beyond OSHA levels. The agenda also notes the Department's intent to continue lowering its Pension Discount Rate, which has a direct financial consequence for self-insured employers' pensions. See the full agenda here.

WSIA Conference Planning Committee to meet - in person & online
Calling all members interested in contributing to the content and success of our conferences! Our conference planning committee, helmed by WSIA board member Laurel Hensley of Sather Byerly & Holloway, is holding its first meeting of the new program year on July 24th from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at City of Tacoma offices at 3639 Pine Street in Tacoma. Folks who are interested but can't make it can join in by GoToMeeting online, using this link to register for the meeting. Items up for planning will include topics and speakers for our winter, spring, and annual conference and more. If you're interested in the work of the conference planning committee, drop Patrick Koenig a line.

WSIA Fall Conference registration to open next week!
We're excited to announce that Fall Conference registration will open next week! We've been asking you to save Friday September 15th for our annual safety & prevention themed event being held in SeaTac. We're excited about the line up of self-insured employers, researchers, and workers' comp professionals speaking, as well as a keynote on occupational safety and health from L&I director Joel Sacks. Watch next week for the announcement and agenda info!

The RTW Summit

An Insider's Guide to Vocational Rehabilitation in Washington
July 28th | All Day | Swedish Medical Center, Seattle | Click for Details

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