Hot Button Issues in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation — 2011 (Part II)

January 26, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

In Part I on our series on hot button North Carolina workers’ compensation issues for 2011, we discussed how escalating health care costs, information overload online, and confusion over “independent contractor” status have redefined the national and local NC workers’ comp systems. In today’s post, we will examine other burning issues that insurers, analysts, employees, and employers will be debating this calendar year.

1. Confusion over Medicare Set-Aside Arrangements

The so-called Medicare Secondary Payer laws – MSP laws – can be overwhelming, even to people who have familiarity with the laws in theory and practice. A hurt worker can lose key Medicare benefits if he or she fails to deal with his or her MSP issues effectively during a settlement. Indeed, a scary number of experts remain confused about things like the best practices for dealing with Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangements (WCMSA).

2. Is workers’ comp litigation helping or hurting?

Detractors of workers’ comp litigation point to the fact that institutions like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have ramped up their legal activity thanks to expansions of laws like the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the ADA, and the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. With so many legal disputes in the works, some analysts fear a break down in employer-employee trust.

Obviously, litigation for litigation’s sake can clearly damage the economy and degrade trust. But critics of the EEOC should recognize that that group and others like it may merely be responding to longstanding unfair industry practices. It should be possible to work out “win-win” arrangements to simultaneously reduce litigation and improve conditions for both employees and employers. For instance, the strategic use of “social nudges” to prevent people from engaging in bad behavior and encouraging more generous employer-employee relationships could really help.

3. The frequency of workers’ comp claims may be reversing

Starting in the early 90s, the number of claims filed per company payroll began to decline. This reduced caseload helped to counterbalance the increase of medical and rehab costs. But the frequency of claims may be picking up again… adding yet another stressor to the North Carolina workers’ compensation system and other state systems.

4. The obesity and diabetes epidemics

Good data suggest that the increased prevalence of obesity and diabetes (sometimes known as “diabesity”) may be driving up health and medical care costs throughout North Carolina and other states. This epidemic not only creates additional cost control problems but also indirectly impacts the job market itself.

5. Bad advice at the beginning of your research can bias you and make you continue to make poor decisions

Social science findings show that the quality of the resources you initially tap into can have a dramatic influence on your long-term prospects for economic and medical recovery.

To that end, it may be helpful for you or your injured coworker to connect with a North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm that has the resources, track record, and wherewithal to deliver excellent service.

More Web Resources:

Medicare Secondary Payer

Ledbetter Fair Pay Act


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