Monthly Archives: December 2014

Florida has a Large Percentage of Medicare’s top “Controlled-Drug” Prescribers

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from flojcc.blogspot.com

Today’s post is authored by Judge David Langham and shared from flojcc.blogspot.com/

A story was recently published on the WUSF website, Health News Florida. It says that the “prolific prescribers” of some medications are facing “Medicare scrutiny.”

A chart in the story reflects the distribution of 192 top prescribing medical providers in 12 states. Of these, 52, or 27% are located here in the Sunshine State. 

The article notes that in 2012, “Medicare covered nearly 27 million prescriptions for powerful narcotic painkillers and stimulants with the highest potential for abuse and dependence.” 

Despite efforts at addressing narcotic use, the article notes that this was a “9 percent” increase compared to 2011. 

Thankfully, though Florida has the largest volume of providers represented in this chart, the top prescriber is not in Florida. Dr. Shelinder Aggarwal of Huntsville, Alabama has that distinction. He prescribed “more than 14,000 Schedule 2 prescriptions in 2012.” This amounted to “more than 80 percent of his Medicare patients” receiving “at least one prescription for a Schedule 2 drug, in many cases oxycodone.”Apparently he is no longer a physician, the article notes he “surrendered his medical license” in 2013. 

The prescription practices are a “real area of concern” for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to the director, quoted in the article. 

The article suggests that data in existing resources can…

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Health Care Testing: A New Frontier for Worker’s Comp

Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

As a worker’s compensation lawyer, I see many news stories through the prism of how the news event or trend will affect injured workers in the worker’s compensation system. A federal judge in Minnesota has ruled that Honeywell, Inc. can begin penalizing workers who refuse to take medical or biometric tests. 

The EEOC had claimed Honeywell’s policy violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. They filed a lawsuit in Minneapolis on behalf of two Minnesota employees of Honeywell.

The tests Honeywell required their employees to take measured blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose, as well as signs that employee had been smoking. Employees who declined to take the test could be fined up to $4,000 in surcharges and increased health costs. Honeywell said the program is designed to “encourage employees to live healthier lifestyles and to lower health care costs.” Honeywell says the testing promotes employee well-being. Management also indicated “We don’t believe it’s fair to the employees who do work to lead healthier lifestyles to subsidize the healthcare premiums for those who do not.”

The ramifications of such testing for worker’s compensation immediately come to mind. In any kind of an occupational exposure claim, such tests could be used to help deny worker’s compensation claims for employees who smoke, are overweight, have diabetic condition, claims involving occupational back conditions, carpal tunnel claims, and any kind of respiratory complaints. Another “slippery slope” may be the use of these kinds of testing to actually screen prospective employees, since the employer rationale would be that hiring folks with those pre-existing conditions would cost the employer more money.

Is There a Link Between Firefighting and Cancer? – Epidemiology in Action

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from blogs.cdc.gov

Today’s post is shared from cdc.gov/

Epidemiology is the art and science of using data to answer questions about the health of groups. In occupational epidemiology, we use that data to understand how work affects health. This blog entry is part of a series that shares the stories behind the data.

Firefighters face numerous hazards in the line of duty. The risks of acute and potentially fatal injuries and stresses from the dangerous environment of a fire scene are well known. In addition to these hazards, fires generate toxic contaminants, including some agents known or suspected to cause cancer. Less is known about the potential long-term health effects firefighters may experience as a result of work-related exposures. In particular, do firefighters face a higher risk of cancer than is found in the general population?

In 2010, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) embarked on a multi-year effort to conduct a large-scale study to better understand the potential link between firefighting and cancer. The research was a joint effort led by NIOSH researchers and conducted in collaboration with researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the University of California at Davis Department of Public Health Sciences and supported, in part, by the U.S Fire Administration.

Higher Cancer Rates

The study found that a combined population of firefighters from three large U.S. cities showed higher-than-expected rates of certain types of cancer…

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That’s Not Fair!

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

“That’s not fair!” 

I continually receive this response when I tell an injured worker that they cannot sue their employer based on their work injury and its effects.  Despite the media barrage many workers equate worker’s compensation with personal injury law.  The concept of fairness and fault quite frankly have no real place in the worker’s compensation system. 

As discussed in prior posts, the worker’s compensation system is based on a “deal” between employers and employees, dating all the way back to 1911 in Wisconsin.  Workers, in effect, gave up the right to sue in Circuit Court, along with their right to a jury trial and verdict, in exchange for certain, guaranteed, and lesser payments, regardless of having to prove fault.  Employers give up the right to their common law defenses (assumption of risk, co-employee negligence, and contributory negligence) and avoided the uncertainty of high jury verdicts, while simultaneously accepting liability (and requirement of worker’s compensation insurance) for all work-related injuries.

For most employees, the system works very well.  This is because generally only 10% of work-related injuries have provable “fault.”  These statistics were from a recent seminar I attended through the Worker’s Injury Law and Advocacy Group.  This means that–on average–only 10% of work injuries could an injured worker arguably claim was based on negligent or intentional acts of the employer or a co-worker.  Thus, for the other approximately 90% of workers, the worker’s compensation system is a huge beneficial safety net.  Without the worker’s compensation system, these workers could be off work, without any type of income or medical bill payment.  It is helpful to remind injured workers of this incredibly relevant statistic.

When asking injured workers to actually define who could have been responsible (if this was a personal injury system) for their injury, the responses generally are difficult.  In most instances, there is no one to blame–it was an accidental injury.  This is a reminder to injured workers of the true benefits of our stable and beneficial worker’s compensation system in Wisconsin.

Can Doctors Dump Their Patients?

Recently we have noticed a disturbing trend in workers’ compensation claims of injured workers being summarily dismissed by a treating doctor while still in obvious need of treatment for their injury. One doctor declined to continue seeing an injured worker after he had referred the worker out for needed surgery, even though the insurance company denied the surgery. The injured worker was left without any care or the ability to get further pain medications.

Since 1986 there have been Federal laws that prohibit hospitals from prematurely discharging a patient because of a low paying insurance plan or refusing treatment because of a patient’s inability to pay. However, there are no such Federal laws for private clinics and doctors. The American Medical Association has established guidelines regarding when a doctor may terminate a patient relationship, based on its Code of Ethics. Non-compliance with treatment, missed appointments, rude or obnoxious behavior, drug seeking behavior, non-payment of bills, retirement of doctor/closing of practice and changes in insurance are among the accepted reasons.

Doctors may not dismiss a patient while they are in an emergency or critical phase of care or when there is a lack of access to other appropriate medical care for the patient. If such a dismissal happens, do not be argumentative, rude or obnoxious. Do not ask this physician for a referral to a new doctor. Try to find your own doctor through your church, family, friends or other associates who may have contacts in the medical community. If the dismissal is unjustified, you may want to file a complaint with the State medical board.

For more information, go to http://patients.about.com/od/doctorsandproviders/f/Can-My-Doctor-Dismiss-Me-As-A-Patient.htm.

James Brown and Attorney/Client Relations

Artist James Brown

Artist James Brown

If you haven’t seen the recent movie or HBO documentary on James Brown, you should check it out. He made me think about these top ten client relation tips:

  1.  Treat all clients with respect and dignity.
  2.  Try to understand the stress that our clients are under, especially when they are upset.
  3.  At the same time, do not tolerate verbal abuse from clients. Respect works both ways.
  4.  Keep boundaries. Clients need you to have an objective view, not become their best friend.
  5.  Clients don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
  6.  Be honest in all things, at all times. Keeps you out of trouble.
  7.  Building good relationships are the foundation blocks of success.
  8.  Keep the client informed about what you are doing.
  9.  Be prepared and be thinking about going to trial from the first day. Cases settle more often and you get better results when you are prepared.
  10. Think about James Brown. He was the “hardest working man in show business” for a reason. He gave it everything he had, and it showed.

Injured Worker Stakeouts: Do Private Investigators Commit Fraud?

Have you noticed a suspicious vehicle lurking in your neighborhood lately, or is there a stranger that seems to be everywhere you go? If you have an active workers’ compensation claim, then you may not be imaging things. More and more, we are seeing insurance companies willing to spend thousands of dollars to hire private investigators to conduct clandestine surveillance of an injured worker’s daily activities and documenting these activities with video cameras. This type of surveillance often comes as a shock to our clients.

When these situations arise, the question we hear most often is, “Can they do that? Is this legal?” The answer is yes. Private investigators may photograph or video people in their private residences so long as they are clearly visible to the general public and there is no expectation of privacy. They can also conduct a full background investigation and obtain information about any other claims you made for personal injuries or if you have ever been charged with a crime.

While there are honest private investigators in the field, there are also those who will cheat. One investigator deflated an injured worker’s tire and then videotaped the person “working” to fix the flat tire. Another investigator reported talking on the phone to someone who told him that an injured worker was working while also receiving workers’ compensation benefits. A follow up done by our firm proved that the person with whom the investigator claimed to have talked has a serious hearing impairment and could not use the telephone.  

Injured workers need to be aware that surveillance can happen in any case. It has become part of the workers’ compensation system. By the way, if you do notice a suspicious car parked near your home, call the police.