Tuesday, September 29, 2009, 10:26 PM - Political developmentsThere's mounting evidence showing that football players are at increased risk for dementia.
Today comes word in the New York Times that the University of Michigan's Institute for Social research has completed a study of former NFL players.
Further studies will be undertaken, but the Michigan study is said to document a vastly higher rate of memory problems and dementia than would be found in the general population.
The reason would appear to be concussions suffered in the sport.
The Times article by Alan Schwarz is here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/30/sport ... ia.html?hp
A handful of firms handle the California workers' comp cases for NFL players. I expect we'll see increasing claims focused on the cognitive effects of the sport.
Here are some earlier posts I did on the topic:
"Pro Football's Walking Wounded":
http://workerscompzone.com/index.php?en ... 202-073901
"Pro Football Player Injuries":
http://workerscompzone.com/index.php?en ... 204-124330
Monday, September 28, 2009, 08:32 PM - Understanding the CA WC systemOne large problem in California workers' comp has been the inability of the WCIRB to accurately assess workers' comp cost trends.
The WCIRB (Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau) collects data from insurers and makes recommendations on rates to California's Insurance Commissioner who, in turn, makes a recommendation to the industry. With the industry deregulated, none of this is binding on individual insurance carriers. But it has political and symbolic effect.
Concerned over the WCIRB's less than stellar track record over the past decade, current Insurance Commissioner Poizner made a set of recommendations to the WCIRB in 2008.
In 2007, Poizner charged that from 1995 to 2000, WCIRB forecasts underestimated costs by 20 to 60%, while post 2004 reform forecasts by the WCIRB overestimated costs by by 30 to 50%.
Among the recommendations was for the WCIRB to change the way it assesses medical costs as part of its "Uniform Statistical Reporting Plan".
The WCIRB has now submitted a plan to revise the way it assesses costs.
Utilization review and medical bill review are to be handled differently.
The cost of medical cost containment programs will be moved from the medical loss column to the allocated loss adjustment expense category.
This will, over time, provide more transparency as to what the system costs really are.
Utilization review, nurse case management, and bill review and some other loss control schemes have become costly line items in and of themselves (and profit centers for many of the companies). Medical costs have risen, but cost containment expenses have also reisen dramatically.
As premium dollar volume has declined in California workers' comp, allocated and unallocated medical costs have loomed larger in relation to benefits actually paid out to disabled workers.
I have to credit Insurance Commissioner Poizner on this one. His recommendation to the WCIRB has come to fruition. Over the long run we may have a better system as a result.
To see the recommended changes in the WCIRB's reporting, you can click here (it's part of their amended rate filing):
Sunday, September 27, 2009, 09:24 PM - Political developmentsBack to more workers' comp meat and potatoes this week.. but first a few items lingering around the drawer....
Coming back from my Croatia vacation last week, I picked up a book I've been meaning to read.
It's "The Shadow Factory", by James Bamford. Bamford's career has focused on the ultra-secret National Security Agency. Prior books on the NSA were "The Puzzle Palace" and "Body of Secrets".
In the past week we've seen arrests in several alleged terrorism cases:
a Jordanian immigrant who intended to blow up a Dallas skyscraper, an Afghan immigrant who is alleged to have been involved in a plot to
set off bombs, and an Illinois man intent on blowing up a federal building.
Chances are good that the NSA was heavily involved in these cases. The threat from terrorists seems to be real, and continuing. It's not a Cindy Sheehan world we live in.
Bamford's tale of the NSA's reach is stunning.
A key data mining point has been at the AT&T facility on Folsom Street in San Francisco. Earlier today tens of thousands of revelers marched down Folsom Street, some naked, some half naked, participating in San Francisco's bawdy Folsom Street Fair, which celebrates all kinds of sensual and some kinky persuasions. Those revelers, wearing chains, chaps, loincloths (or not) were just a stone's throw from that AT&T facility where the NSA installed Naurus technology to monitor digital communications.
Once word became public that digital communications of Americans were being monitored at Folsom Street, a legislative and legal battle ensued over the Bush administration's attempts to circumvent FISA. The ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation became deeply involved. Both the Bush and Obama administration have claimed a state secrets privilege in those lawsuits.
Some readers will come away from Bamford's book chilled by the extent of the Orwellian surveillance structure that already in place. Others may find comfort in the notion that the surveillance described may already have broken up plots that, had they succeeded, led to even more dismantling of the civil liberties we still enjoy.
Bamford will educate you on Naurus, Verint, the Morro Bay cable crossing, Total Information Awareness, PatternTracer, Agility, Anchory, ArcView, fastscope, Hightide, Octave, Dishfire, Pinwale, Osis, Puzzlecube, Tuningfork, Xkeyscrore, Edge, PerSay, Unit 8200, VANTAGE, DEEPVIEW, the Protect America Act, Comverse, IARPA, Aquaint, Trailblazer, the Black Widow, Cascade, Roadrunner, TIDE, Quantum Leap and Railhead.
You'll learn about petaflop barriers.
Pick up a copy. You'll be glad you did.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009, 10:26 PM - Political developmentsIs California unduly burdened by too many regulations? Are we "economically unfree"? Are our laws and tax policies driving away business and investment?
That's the argument made in a study unveiled by the Governor's "Small Business Advocate". It's a study that we'll see cited in future legislative debates and in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
The study contends that regulation is costing California $493 billion and causing a loss of millions of jobs:
http://jan.freedomblogging.com/2009/09/ ... obs/22567/
I've included a link to this study at the end of this post.
The study by Cal State Sacramento faculty claims to survey state by state rankings in the following:
-capital gains taxes
-corporate tax rates
-corporate capital gains taxes
-state and local property taxes
-state and local sales/excise taxes
-health insurance mandates
-electric utility costs
-the number of government employees
-state & local spending trends
-per capita state & local government expenses
-highway "cost effectiveness"
And.......you guessed it.....workers' comp.Table #11 to the study purports to rank states in workers comp benefits per $100 of wages.
By this particular measure, California is said to be 47th, with only 3 other states paying out more as a percentage of payroll (California is said to pay $1.59 in benefits per $100 of wages). Whether this is accurate isn't clear from the stats included in the study.
Workers' comp is not cited as a primary cause of a business unfriendly climate. But the implication is that it's one factor.
The authors of the study appear to borrow heavily from a Forbes Magazine study of comparative business costs. Whether the assumptions and methodology are appropriate merits further discussion.
But as noted previously, it's the kind of study that will be cited and used by proponents of smaller government. So I expect that we'll see various politicians hopping on this bandwagon. And it's almost inevitable that they'll be complaining that California workers' comp costs are too high and contributory to a poor business climate.
We've recently seen that Nevada launched a PR attack on California, claiming that Nevada's climate was much more business friendly.
These kinds of studies inevitably fail to make an adequate assessment.
Quality of life factors are not considered. States such as South Dakota, Wyoming and Alabama may score well on "small business survival", but many of those states are small and do not have the challenges of a large populated state such as California, with it's multiple regions and ethnic diversity. Innovation, access to world renowned universities, funding for community colleges and commitment to environmental health are not considered. Access to justice and protection against discrimination are not measured. In workers' comp adequacy of benefits is not considered.
Without exploring many of the countervailing factors which keep business in California, the study appears to be unbalanced.
Here's the study:
http://www.sba.ca.gov/Cost%20of%20Regul ... 0Final.pdf
You'll be hearing more on this one.
Monday, September 21, 2009, 07:51 AM - Political developments(Workerscompzone has been traveling; this is the last in a series from Croatia before returning to more meat and potato issues on workers' comp and employee rights.....)
Dubrovnik.....A study in survival....
Some refer to Dubrovnik as the pearl of the Adriatic. An
ancient walled city, built of cream colored stone, it spills down from steep hills to the sea. Inside the walls are virtually all the major architectural elements of the last thousand-plus years. Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque. All covered with orange terra cotta roofs.
On any short list of the world's most beautiful cities, Dubrovnik would be there with Rome, Paris, Florence, Prague, Barcelona and Venice.
It's possible to walk the entire perimeter of the town's fortress walls. They directly abut the sea, with a series of small islands stringing directly off the coast.
Even the causal observer would note that those roofs don't appear to be very old. Huh?
Dubrovnik was shelled by Serbian and Montenegrin forces in 1991, causing at least partial destruction to over half of the town's buildings. The town was a sitting duck for artillery launched from surrounding mountains.
After the Dayton Accords resolving the Balkan conflict (talks led by Richard Holbrooke, who is now the U.S. regional special envoy to the Pakistan/Afghanistan region), stone artisans from around the world were enlisted to help in reconstruction. What has been preserved is stunning.
Leaving Dubrovnik by bus back to Split, the bus was boarded on 3 separate occasions by Croatian border patrol checking passports. In the USA many of us assume that our immigration issues are unique.
Clearly, Croatia is concerned about immigration coming up from it's southern neighbors....Albania, Macedonia, Turkey etc.
Dining with an aquaintance in Amsterdam on my way to Croatia, he noted that over the past decade there has been an increasing degree of resentment bubbling up in Dutch politics towards immigrants. Holland, traditionally a very tolerant country, enamored of consensus, is said to be becoming less tolerant and more polarized.
On BBC TV last night was a report of street confrontations between British youth and immigrants.
This won't surprise many of my readers, but it does serve to underscore the fact that immigration and transnational migration is and will continue to be a hot button issue in many societies, including Europe.
We're already seeing the immigration issue become prominent in the debate over U.S. healthcare reform, as politicians trip over themselves to make sure that illegal immigrants can not benefit from healthcare reform.