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Up to 50 South Louisiana Community College (SLCC) students soon may receive tuition assistance to become certified utility line workers due to an expansion of a program created by the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC), its Local Workforce Development Boards (LWDBs) and other affiliated utility employer partners. The LWDBs in LWC Regions 4 and 5 – Acadiana and Lake Charles regions, respectively – have announced a customized training contract with SLEMCO, Cleco, Entergy, Lafayette Utilities System and SLCC for the Certified Power Line Worker Training Program, a workforce-development initiative that began as a response to an increasing need to recruit line workers across Louisiana.
Texas Mutual Insurance Company recently announced that it is awarding $1.1 million in grants to 11 colleges across Texas to fund workplace safety courses for employers, workers and the general public. Texas Mutual began its commitment to supporting safety education at Texas colleges 20 years ago. Since 1999, Texas Mutual has awarded $7.7 million in safety education grants, and more than 30,000 students have attended free safety institutes offered at various colleges.
Business Insurance‘s Innovation Awards are looking for new products and services that insurers, brokers, TPAs, technology companies and other service providers have created for professional risk managers.
SB88 by Senator Luneau establishes a 45 day deadline to appeal decisions of the Medical Director as part of the LWC Form 1008 process. The bill passed the Legislature this Session and is on the Governor’s desk.
Office of Workers’ Compensation Administration Assistant Secretary Sheral Kellar spoke with Louisiana Comp Blog to discuss the new regulations and what they mean for getting treatment to injured workers faster.
Comp Blog: Was this bill requested by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Administration or did Senator Luneau take it up of his own accord?
Asst Secretary Kellar: SB88 was part of the “Governor’s Cabinet” package of legislation.
Comp Blog: When will the 45-day deadline go into effect?
Asst Secretary Kellar: It was sent to the Governor on June 4th for his signature. The deadline will become effective upon his signature or on August 1st. Other than that there are no other administrative things that need to be accomplished to implement it.
[caption id="attachment_12816" width="195"] Asst Secretary Kellar | OWCA[/caption]
Comp Blog: There was some controversy in Committee surrounding this bill. Can you explain why the appeal deadline was an issue in the first place?
Asst Secretary Kellar: The Arrant Supreme Court decision rendered in 2016 necessitated this bill. Simply, the Louisiana Supreme Court held that the agency cannot make a prescriptive period by rule, therefore, that rule was held to be unconstitutional.
The Medical Treatment Guidelines were implemented in 2011, and so in June of that year we realized that the statute which enacted the Medical Treatment Guidelines did not contain a provision for appealing the Medical Director’s decision to the workers’ compensation judge. It was just an oversight on the part of the drafters.
In an effort to fix the appeal delay, the agency amended Rule 5507 of the hearing rules to implement a 15 day delay period between the Medical Director’s decision and the appeal to the workers’ compensation judge. It’s 5507(C) of the hearing rules which says that any party aggrieved by the determination of the Medical Director may seek judicial review for filing a Form 1008 in a workers’ compensation district office 15 days from the date said determination is mailed to the parties.
At that point we felt that it would be quicker to implement the delay period by the administrative rule than by waiting for the next Legislative Session. If you read the Arrant decision what you’ll find is that an injured worker who was seeking medical treatment was denied the treatment he sought and he waited about six months and the judge found that the appeal was untimely because of the 15 days provided for in the rules. The Supreme Court reversed that decision.
Comp Blog: The original bill called for a 30-day deadline which was amended to 45 days. Do you think that’s a sufficient amount of time, or does that matter from an administrative standpoint?
Asst Secretary Kellar: I would have preferred to stay with the 30 days in the original bill because the intent of the Medical Treatment Guidelines is to return injured workers to work quickly. The shorter time period is in keeping with that effort, but I’m not unhappy with 45 days.
Comp Blog: As a consequence of this new deadline, do you think that parties will avoid some of the confusion surrounding Medical Director decisions?
Asst Secretary Kellar: I think that the appeal delay will clarify some of the issues that we have with the implementation of the Medical Treatment Guidelines. In the hearing rules, it says that the aggrieved party can bring the appeal. What had happened before, for example, is if a recommended medical treatment was approved by the Medical Director, the aggrieved party is the insurer. And so, if there is no provision to bring an appeal, there is a three year period to respond, according to the provision that the Supreme Court referred to in Arrant. We’re hoping that by implementing the 45 days it will bring a quicker conclusion.
Read further coverage of SB88 in Committee from Louisiana Comp Bloghere.
Read the text of the bill and amendments here.
The June and July Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council meetings have been cancelled. Further, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Administration issued a notice yesterday that the telephone numbers have changed for the OWCA District 6 Hearings Office in Covington. The new telephone numbers are:
Main line 985-792-5926
Fax line 985-792-5925
While the toll free number will remain the same, OWCA is currently working with AT&T to correct some problems with that line. If you are not able to reach the office on the toll free line, you are instructed to call 985-792-5926. The new office location is: 190 New Camellia Blvd., Suite 101, Covington, LA 70433.
The US Chemical Safety Board released its final investigation report into the blowout that fatally injured five workers at the Pryor Trust gas well located in Pittsburgh County, OK. The CSB’s final report identifies a lack of regulations governing onshore drilling safety as well as shortcomings in safety management systems and industry standards utilized by the industry. The report calls on regulators, industry groups, the state of Oklahoma and companies to address such gaps.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its Monthly Labor Review: What’s behind occupational separations? The Review notes that two factors – age and educational attainment – have the greatest impact on separations.
WCRI released a new study ─ Health Insurance and Outcomes of Injured Workers ─ that examines the association between health insurance for non-work-related conditions and outcomes that workers experience after a work-related injury.