The WSIA Weekly, 4.17.15

 Legislature acts on Benefits Accuracy Working Group, Return to Work, and other bills

WSIA’s top legislative priority is headed to the Governor’s desk for approval, as the Senate yesterday voted to accept House amendments to ESB 5510, creating the “Benefits Accuracy Working Group” at Labor & Industries with the directive to work on wage simplification issues and bring any solutions back to future legislative sessions. The Legislature also passed this week HB 1496, Labor & Industries’ bill to enhance return to work efforts like the Preferred Worker Program and the vocational rehabilitation system; SB 5468, L&I’s proposal to allow for spending on self-insurance projects covered by the administrative assessment without prior legislative appropriation; and HB 1604, a union-backed measure to create a working group at the Department to study whether current hazardous exposure reporting requirements should be strengthened for firefighters. While sharp disagreements over budget and tax issues between the House and Senate threaten to extend the work of the Legislature past next weekend’s scheduled adjournment, workers’ compensation and workplace safety issues appear to be settled for the year. More info at the WSIA blog.  

 Supreme Court decides Second Injury Fund case

Yesterday, the Washington Supreme Court released its opinion in Boeing v. Labor & Industries, holding that discretionary medical treatment authorized after a worker’s Second Injury Fund pension must be paid for by the self-insured employer responsible for the pension, not the Second Injury Fund. The court’s decision upheld Labor & Industries’ policy on the question, on which the Department had prevailed at the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, but the Department had lost at the Superior Court and Court of Appeals levels. On a unanimous vote, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals. More background at the WSIA blog.

 L&I issues FAQ document on benefit delay/denial penalties issue

WSIA members are well aware of the Department’s long road toward development and deployment of regulations in response to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeal’s Coston case on penalties for delay or denial of benefits, including now payment for medical treatment. While the Department’s rule became effective in January, a number of questions and concerns have lingered. The Department attempted to compile and address the most pressing clarifications in a FAQ document released this week, covering issues such as what constitutes written notice of a newly contended condition, and what bill denials require written response from the employer. Click here for a copy of the FAQ.

 L&I announces annual training course for certified claims administrators

Earlier this week, the Department announced it will be holding the self-insurers’ annual training course “Update 2015” at the Department’s Tumwater headquarters on July 29th and again on August 19th. This year, the Department has advised that the update course is not mandatory for claims administrators. More info here.

 In Memoriam: Karen Roberts

The WSIA office is deeply saddened to report the passing yesterday of our longtime bookkeeper, Karen Roberts, after a year-long battle with cancer. While WSIA members may not have interacted directly with her, if you registered for a conference, renewed your membership, paid an invoice or received a payment, she was on it. Karen was a cheerful, deeply honest, and energetic woman with whom we loved to work. Despite weakness from her treatment, she was here keeping the books straight right up to last month. She loved bringing us quirky candy treats from her native Canada, and was very proud of her recent naturalization as a US citizen and her marriage a few years ago to her husband Lawrence. Karen was 44.  

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