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.

Canada's Costliest Natural Disaster

Jul. 13, 2016

The wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta, are expected to total nearly $3 billion in insured losses, making it the costliest Canadian natural disaster. This is twice the cost of the previously largest natural disaster, the 2013 Alberta floods. The May 2016 wildfires forced the evacuation of 90,000 residents, closed multiple oil sands operations, and cut Canada's crude output by more than 1 million barrels a day.


In the first half of 2016, the United States was hit with eight weather-related disasters with at least $1 billion in damage, the second most for the same time period since 1980. Two of these disasters were from flooding and six were from severe thunderstorm outbreaks (five of these disasters occurred in Texas). The total combined weather-related loss in 2016 so far is $13.1 billion.


Last month was the hottest June on record for the mainland United States. The Lower 48 had its third-hottest first half of the year. May was the 13th month in a row of record-breaking temperatures on Earth and it's still being determined if June will mark the 14th month in a row. Scientists note that we are seeing the consequences of rising temperatures with more heatwaves, more devastating wildfires, and record-hot temperatures.


Since 1980, the U.S. has sustained 196 weather and climate disasters where the overall damages reached or exceeded $1 billion. The total cost of these combined disasters exceeds $1.1 trillion.

Federal Opioid Bill


Last Friday, the House approved legislation to combat heroin and opioid painkiller abuse. The bill passed the House on a 407-to-5 vote. It is expected to pass through the Senate and head to President Obama's desk this week. The bill would establish grant funding for state and local governments to build opioid reduction programs with enhanced prescription drug monitoring programs. Although there are lingering funding questions, the bill is expected to be one of Congress's biggest achievements this year.


A recent study of Medicare Part D spending noted a decline in opioid prescriptions in states where medical marijuana is legal - on average, opioid prescriptions dropped by about 1,800 daily doses filled each year per doctor. Just this past week, the Democratic Party endorsed a "reasoned pathway to future legalization" of marijuana and asked for the drug to be downgraded under the Controlled Substance Act. We are awaiting an announcement by the Drug Enforcement Agency for a decision whether it will change the federal status of marijuana. The country is watching for this one.

Making Our Way Around the Country


The Colorado Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC) is proposing a rule change that would require the use of ICD-10 codes and set reimbursement rates for over-the-counter medications. Over-the-counter medications would be reimbursed under the National Drug Code and the average wholesale price set by the manufacturer and would not be eligible for a dispensing fee. The DWC is also proposing changes to the medical fee schedule during its annual update. A hearing will be held for both rules on August 17 at 633 17th St. in Denver, and the DWC will accept any written submissions prior to the hearing.


The Florida Division of Workers' Compensation proposed rules to repeal the Preferred Worker Program, which reimburses employers from the Special Disability Trust Fund for the cost of workers' compensation premiums to cover disabled workers for up to three years of continuous employment. The program was statutorily repealed under H.B. 613. The program began in 1994.


On vacation and missed these exciting events? Check out Serena Williams' seventh Wimbledon win and then check out one of the most decorated and competitive women's gymnastics teams going to Rio's 2016 Olympic Games. Countdown to Rio - 23 days.


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