News from Washington's Workers' Comp & Workplace Safety Association
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WSIA Weekly, 3.13.15

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Top News
Senate passes "Benefit Accuracy Working Group" to tackle wage simplification
As we reported earlier this week on our blog, several workers' compensation related bills advanced out of the Senate in advance of Wednesday's deadline for continued consideration. Of great interest to WSIA is ESB 5510, which, as amended, creates a "Benefit Accuracy Working Group" under the direction of the Department of Labor & Industries, to bring employer and worker representatives together to develop recommendations to the Legislature for improving the calculation of time loss benefits. This working group model, patterned on successful past collaboratives on vocational rehabilitation reform and more recently, self-insurance audit reform, is designed to focus on accuracy, consistency, fairness, and simplicity for state fund and self-insured benefit calculations, without reducing benefit levels. The bill passed the Senate 41-8 with a wide bipartisan majority, but the opposition of several union stalwarts to even discussing the issue signals more work is necessary in the state House, where the bill now awaits consideration, and where unions and claimants' counsel wield considerable influence. 

Modest structured settlements expansion also clears Senate cutoff
Alongside the proposal for a working group on benefit accuracy, the Senate also passed ESB 5513, a bill that, as introduced, would have eliminated the age restriction on eligibility to settle aspects of workers' compensation claims by structured settlement. Presently, the option is limited to injured workers age 53 or older, transitioning next year to age 50 or older. To make passage of the bill bi-partisan, an amendment was offered and accepted on the floor to set the age limitation at 40, roughly the average age of a worker at time of injury in our system. The mere prospect of resolving a workers' comp claim in Washington by final settlement has long generated controversy in the Legislature among labor and claimants' counsel representatives, and passage of this bill was no different. ESB 5513 passed 28-21, with Senators Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens), Brian Hatfield (D-Raymond), Jim Hargrove (D-Hoquiam), and Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) crossing party lines to support the bill. Senators Pam Roach (R-Auburn) and Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way) crossed party lines to oppose the bill. It awaits an uncertain future in the House.

For more legislative session news, check out our weekly legislative update and bill tracking sheet by clicking here (member login required - e-mail us if you've forgotten it).

Seeking volunteers to interface with L&I's Office of Medical Director
At yesterday's WSIA Liaison Committee meeting with Labor & Industries' self-insurance management, a representative from the Office of Medical Director (OMD) gave a brief presentation on the Department's development of treatment guidelines, their online condition and treatment index, and the word of the OMD generally to ensure appropriate, evidence-based care of injured workers. To further strengthen the relationship between the self-insured community and OMD, the Department asked for some representatives of self-insured employers to form an informal working group to meet occasionally with OMD representatives for information sharing and collaboration. If you are interested in the medical treatment side of the Department, or have a colleague in your department, like a nurse case manager, who may be, please respond to Kris Tefft with your interest in learning more about this opportunity.

2015 Annual Conference picking up sponsorships, exhibitors -- more available
This year's sure-to-be-epic annual conference, WSIA's Wild Kingdom of Workers' Compensation, happening May 6-8 in the Tri-Cities, is picking up steam with registrations, sponsors, and exhibitors lining up. We're especially thankful for the generosity of our early sponsors, Medical Consultants Network as Diamond sponsors; MEDPlus Health Solutions at the Platinum level; Pratt, Day & Stratton at the Gold level; and Keehn Kunkler and J. Donley Associates at the Silver levels. More sponsorship and exhibitor openings remain -- click this link for sponsorship, this link for exhibitors, and this link for general conference information/registration.

Also, we resolved an early conference hotel kerfuffle - the block of rooms originally set for the new Marriott has been moved to the Hilton at the convention center at the same rate, as the Marriott's opening has been delayed past our event. Updated hotel information is now reflected at the conference link.

Don't Miss!
Get your Spring Conference registrations in - see you next Friday!
Our spring conference, Keeping it Real: Managing Medical Conditions in the Workplace, sponsored by Amplifon Hearing Health Care, takes place next Friday at Valley Medical Center in Renton. Topics include stopping disability, dealing with infectious disease at work in the age of Ebola, effectively utilizing physical therapy, predicting illness behavior, a panel on advanced claims strategies, and a legislative update. View the agenda and more information by clicking here, and register for the conference by clicking here

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