The Way

GB's Weekly Governmental Briefing

Through our Governmental Affairs practice, GB is helping to shape the laws and regulations that will define the times ahead. Acting on behalf of the best interests of our clients and our industry.
Each week, we bring it all into focus.

All Time High - Railworkers Failing Drug Tests

Sep. 21, 2016
WRONG DIRECTION, WRONG TRACK

The number of post-accident drug-positives for railway workers is the highest since the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) began keeping records in 1987 and three times greater than it was 10 years ago. The number of railroad workers who tested positive in random tests rose 43% last year. Officials from the FRA, National Transportation Safety Board, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy met this month with heads of the nation's freight and passenger rail lines to help them address the growing problem. Last week, the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee focused on the rise of positive drug tests throughout the rail industry.

10-YEAR HIGH NATIONWIDE

The percentage of U.S. employees testing positive for illegal drugs has reached the highest level in a decade. A study by Quest Diagnostics found that usage rates of amphetamines, marijuana, and heroin have all increased in the past five years in the general workforce. Employees testing positive for heroin increased 146% in the general workforce and 84% in the safety-sensitive workforce between 2011-2015.

OPIOID DECREASED

Although there are increases in certain drugs, there's been a decrease in employees testing positive for opioids. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for primary care physicians for prescribing opioid medications, and multiple states passed laws restricting the amount and potency of opioid medications. With increased crackdowns on prescription opioids, drug users have turned to heroin, which is more easily accessible.

 

Oklahoma Opt-Out

UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Last week the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the Oklahoma opt-out option unconstitutional. The Oklahoma Employee Injury Benefit Act ("the Act") allowed employers to opt-out of the state's workers' compensation system and create their own plan to provide alternative benefits to their injured employees. In the 7-2 decision, the court agreed with the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission (WCC) that the Act created an "impermissible, unequal, and disparate treatment of a select group of injured workers," which is in violation of the special law provision of the state's Constitution.

NOW WHAT?

Employers have 90 days to comply with the Oklahoma worker's compensation act. The court ruled that this decision also applies to other similar cases being challenged before the WCC, in the appellate pipeline, and to all future cases.

Making Our Way Around the Country

MISSOURI

After Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the workers' compensation large deductible bill, H.B. 1763 was overridden by the House and passed. The bill adds a new section relating to workers' compensation large deductible policies and requires large deductible claims of an insolvent insurer to be turned over to the responsible guaranty association, unless otherwise stipulated. Guaranty associations would be entitled to reimbursement from the insured for payment when the insurer would have been entitled to such reimbursement. This bill is effective immediately.

MASSACHUSETTS

The Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) announced changes to the quarterly data assessment filing process for insurance companies and self-insured groups, which determines the Special Fund and Workers' Compensation Trust Fund assessment rates. The DIA revised the policy detail template and implemented a new system generated validation. Insurers and self-insureds may start using the template and validation for the assessment filing for the quarter ending September 30, 2016, and it will be mandatory starting with the quarter ending June 30, 2017. The DIA also standardized rounding the assessment rate and limited the adjustments reported by insureds and self-insureds.

DEBATES

The first of three Presidential debates will be Monday, September 26, 2016. Some of the topics that Secretary Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will debate are America's direction, prosperity, and security. Or... you can catch the National League Central Division champs: the Chicago Cubs.

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