Worker's Compensation Advisory Council
    Council on Worker’s Compensation
    Meeting Minutes
    Clarion Suites
    Madison, Wisconsin
    October 12, 2006

     

    Members present:  Mr. Beiriger, Mr. Brand, Mr. Buchen, Mr. Furley, Ms. Huntley-Cooper, Mr. Kent, Mr. Newby, Mr. Olson, Mr. Redman, Mr. Scott, Mr. Schimke and Ms. Vetter

    Excused:  Ms. Bean, Mr. Shaver

    Staff present: Mr. Conway, Mr. O’Malley, Ms. Knutson, and Mr. Krueger

    1. Call to Order/Introductions: Ms. Huntley-Cooper convened the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC) meeting at 10:00 a.m. in accordance with Wisconsin’s open meetings law. WCAC members, staff and members of the audience introduced themselves. Mr. Newby introduced Mr. Scott Redman, Plumbers Milwaukee Local 75 as the new labor member of the WCAC. Ms. Huntley-Cooper introduced Mr. Michael Schimke, General Casualty Co. as the new insurance member of the WCAC.

    2. Minutes: Ms. Vetter moved adoption of the minutes of the August 16, 2006 meeting and Mr. Beiriger seconded the motion. The motion was unanimously approved and the minutes were adopted.

    3. Public Comment: Ms. Patricia Grillot addressed the WCAC and expressed concern that she is receiving only the maximum amount of permanent total disability benefits payable in 1985 of $321 per week, while the rate for a 2006 date of injury is $744 per week. Her expenses have increased while her benefit rate has not. She referenced an article in the Isthmus newspaper, indicating that 750 injured workers in Wisconsin are receiving permanent total disability benefits. She gave examples of her financial hardship. She requested that the WCAC address the issue of raising benefit rates for long-term permanent total disability recipients.

      Dr. David Goodman, board certified occupational medicine doctor, addressed issues surrounding independent medical evaluations and the process he goes through in conducting an evaluation and arriving at an opinion on medical causation. He commented on the importance of the independent medical evaluation in the worker’s compensation claims process considering that treating doctors may not have specific training in occupational medicine and there are issues of cost-shifting in medical expense billing. The WCAC could consider regulating IMEs including requiring the physician to have certain credentials (certified by the American Academy of Disability Examiners or the American Board of Independent Medical Examiners). Dr. Goodman offered to be resource to the WCAC.

    4. Report on the PEO Committee: Mr. O’Malley reported the committee met on September 14, 2006 and draft language was reviewed. The draft language was sent to the members via e-mail and the department thought there was consensus, but that is not the case. Mr. Conway explained that the department tries to ensure employers have appropriate worker’s compensation insurance coverage for employees. The proof of coverage records need to be accurate with a clear insurer on the risk. This minimizes exposure for the Uninsured Employers Fund. Multi-coordinated policies provide a way for the client-employer to be named on the PEO’s (Professional Employer Organization) policy. In the event of cancellation of the policy for employers who have leased and non-leased employees, notice can become a complicated matter. There remain two issues where there is no consensus among the committee members: designating in the law that the PEO is an employer, and hybrid master policies. Mr. O’Malley explained that under current law, PEOs and employee-leasing companies are the employer for worker’s compensation purposes. The Office of Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) has postponed the filing until January 1, 2008 to allow the parties to continue to work on an agreeable solution. Mr. Furley suggested that the PEO Committee present the consensus items and recommendations on the non-consensus items in an e-mail to the WCAC before the next meeting. Mr. Buchen indicated that legislators would like to see the PEO Committee meet again to try and resolve the remaining issues. Mr. Conway indicated that another meeting for the PEO Committee would be scheduled.
       

    5. Discussion of other Committees: Ms. Knutson reported that a meeting for the Permanent Total Disability (PTD) Committee is scheduled for October 30th at the Crowne Plaza. Materials were sent in advance to the committee members.

      Regarding the Logger’s Bill Committee, Mr. Buchen indicated that after meeting with a representative of the industry, he has a good understanding of the nature of their concerns. Forming a self-insurance group will not provide premium/financial relief for them. Loggers argue that self-insurance would allow them to better regulate their risk. Michigan has lower rates due to mechanized logging. Breaking out mechanized logging from the rest of the industry will result in lower rates for those employers. Otherwise, the only other way to lower rates is to subsidize rates like Minnesota does, by adding to the cost of a cord of wood. In Michigan rates for the logging industry are subsidized through an assessment. Mr. Buchen will explore the option of subsidizing rates (by adding to the cost of a cord of wood) with the Paper Council.

      The WCAC at the last meeting requested that the department look at approval of payment of attorney’s fees. Mr. Conway reported that the department has formed a committee with the following members: ALJ Wally Thurow (chair) and ALJ Janine Smiley, Attorneys John Neal and John Edmondson, and WCAC members Bruce Olson and Jeff Scott (for their representatives). The committee is planning to meet by December. 

      Ms. Huntley-Cooper reported the Health Care Provider Advisory Committee will meet on October 13th at the Crowne Plaza. The discussion at that meeting will concentrate on attendance of the members and voting on the proposed changes. Currently 12 members in attendance are required for a quorum and at the last meeting, only 11 members attended. If there are any controversial items and a quorum is not present, those items will be tabled until the next meeting. Mr. O’Malley reported that the committee to date has recommended 35 different proposed changes to the Medical Treatment Guidelines. Those changes should be in draft form for consideration by the WCAC by the December 6th meeting. If the WCAC agrees with the proposed changes, they will be incorporated in the draft rule. Mr. Russ Leonard commented that the committee members were looking at the most cost effective ways of treating people. Some of the members at times wanted to go beyond the mission established by the WCAC. Many members will likely want to continue working on other medical issues for the WCAC.

      Ms. Huntley-Cooper reminded the WCAC that the public hearing is scheduled for December 6th from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in Room 235 at UW Madison Pyle Center. The WCAC meeting is scheduled from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., with the public hearing continuing from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Five other locations (Eau Claire, Superior, Milwaukee, Green Bay, La Crosse) will be connected to the public hearing via videoconference.

      Mr. Kent commented that occupational medicine should receive more emphasis at the medical schools. In addition, he stated that the PTD rate is terribly low and must be addressed by the WCAC; $321 per week is not a living wage.

      The WCAC members agreed on the following future meeting dates:
      Thursday, February 1, 2007 – department proposals presented;
      Thursday, March 1, 2007 – exchange of labor/management proposals;
      Thursday, April 5, 2007;
      Thursday, May 3, 2007;
      Thursday, May 17, 2007;
      Thursday May 31, 2007;
      target date for agreed bill is June 1, 2007.

      Mr. Furley requested an e-mail from the department containing details on the public hearing including the time, date, addresses and directions.

      Mr. O’Malley provided an update on the pending litigated caseload. The average time from the date a case is deemed ready for hearing to the date the hearing is held/scheduled is one year or 371 days. This is a statewide average. The oldest cases are scheduled first. In Eau Claire for some weeks this fall we have been scheduling two calendars per week. The department has authority for 23 full-time administrative law judges. Currently there is one vacancy. The department should have an individual hired and fully trained by the end of the year. The Hearings Unit is now fully staffed. In the past three years, four out of six employees in the Hearings Unit retired. Those four employees were very experienced, efficient workers. By early 2007, our caseload should reduce. The department grants expedited hearings in the case of dire financial hardship. There is a procedure to request an expedited hearing. The department is reviewing its policies and procedures on determining a case is in ready or not ready for hearing status. The department may have proposals for the next agreed bill process to address this issue. Since 1984, the average time to schedule ready cases for hearing has never been below seven months. Postponements are also an issue. The time it takes to have a hearing scheduled varies significantly from state to state. In Iowa the average time is 20 months; in Mississippi, two years; Nebraska, six months to 12 months.

    6. Correspondence: Mr. Conway reported on correspondence received from the Christian Science Committee on Publication for Wisconsin. The Christian Science Committee is proposing that the WCAC amend Wis. Stat. §102.42(4) to eliminate the employer’s right to elect to opt out of Christian Science treatment for injured workers. Mr. O’Malley explained that the law has been in effect since 1919. A few employers opt our of Christian Science treatment. In 1919 the worker’s compensation law was voluntary and did not become mandatory until 1931

      Mr. Conway provided an update on Ms. Jane Wester’s request to remove identification information on cases posted on the Labor and Industry Review Commission’s website. She has registered her concerns with the Attorney General (AG). The WCAC was provided a copy of the AG’s Office response indicating LIRC has rationale for including this information on cases posted on its website. Mr. Buchen commented that LIRC could redact the names of the employees and he requested that the department approach LIRC formally and ask them to justify inclusion of employees’ names.

    7. Adjournment:  Discussion on all agenda items concluded and the meeting was adjourned at approximately 12:30 p.m. The next meeting is scheduled for December 6, 2006 following the public hearing.