Legislature appears poised to create massive new occupational disease presumption for Hanford workers
Now two weeks into the 2018 legislative session, one thing that appears clear in workers' compensation policy is that the Legislature is poised to move this year on occupational disease presumptions for Hanford workers. Last Thursday, the House of Representatives passed HB 1723 with a strong bipartisan majority vote of 72-22. Then, on Monday, the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee voted SB 5940 out of committee, rejecting on a party-line vote four amendments sought by WSIA that would limit the exposure of the bill. This presumption, which covers a vast array of conditions, is triggered by as little as one eight hour shift on certain portions of the nuclear site; lasts for a lifetime; can only be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence; and allows for the refiling of previously denied claims.
First responder stress/PTSD bill passes House; now teed up in Senate
The other significant class of occupational disease presumptions before the Legislature now involve first responders -- police and fire members of the LEOFF retirement system -- and stress-based/PTSD claims on the one hand and more cancers and infections on the other hand. HB 1655, granting occupational disease coverage for stress-based claims, passed the House of Representatives yesterday with a 84-13 vote. Meanwhile, SB 6213 and 6214, which involve PTSD and cancers and infections, were heard in Senate committee Monday and Wednesday of this week with further action expected. (Click here to watch the testimony of the cities, counties, WSIA, and AWB as we expressed concern to the Senate panel and our desire to see some compromise come to the proposals).
IMEs, hearing aids, and mental health providers, Oh My
Some other issues hitting hard at the Legislature right now include IMEs, where the Senate is proposing to require all self-insured employers submit medical records for IMEs electronically or, if on paper, at least 10 days prior to a scheduled IME. The same proposal also requires the Department to develop access to telemedicine in IMEs. SB 6226 is up for public hearing on Monday in the Senate. Meanwhile, a proposal to mandate the replacement of hearing aids in workers' compensation claims at least once every five years was heard this week in the House with a committee vote scheduled for next week. Finally, House and Senate committees will be looking next week at a new proposal that would expand the types of providers who can treat mental health issues in workers' comp to include mental health counselors, social workers, and marriage and family therapists.
Interested in all of the legislative issues in workers' comp and safety and staying on top of the latest status of the bills? Check out our (near) weekly update here (member login req'd) or sign up for our legislative committee e-mail list.
BIIA practice and procedure rules finalized
Earlier this week, the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals announced the finalization of its latest slate of rule changes governing practice and procedure. According to the Board, the amendments are "intended to assist in the transition to electronic filing and a paperless file; to reduce duplicate filings; to codify our policy on weapons; to implement charges for copy fees; to update the process of indexing of significant decisions; and to clarify current practice and procedure for conferences, hearings, perpetuation deposition, and exhibits." The new rules went into effect January 6th. See the full text here.
Reminder: Conference Planning Committee meeting Monday
For those of you interested in having an impact on our conference programming over the course of the year, please dial into our Conference Planning Committee conference call Monday, January 22nd at 1:00 p.m. for about 90 minutes. We'll be looking to finalize the program for our Spring Conference and Annual Conference, and are actively entertaining presentation proposals for the Annual Conference, which takes place May 9-11 in Wenatchee this year. Drop us a line if you want the call-in information.
ACHIEV meeting cancelled
For those of you following ACHIEV - the Department of Labor & Industries' Advisory Committee on Healthcare Innovation and Evaluation - the meeting scheduled for next Thursday, January 25th has been cancelled. The next meeting is set for April 26, 2018. You can read a report of the last meeting here to get a sense of the issues before the committee.