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Comp experts expect state reforms, regulatory shifts ahead

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2017 outlook

The effects of a new presidential administration on state workers compensation laws, opioid prescribing, and care for injured workers are among the issues to watch in workers comp this year, according to experts.

Kimberly George, Chicago-based senior vice president and senior health care advisor for Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc., and Mark Walls, Chicago-based vice president, communications and strategic analysis for excess workers comp insurer Safety National Casualty Corp., provided a glimpse of what to expect in 2017 during a webinar on Tuesday.

Topping their list of issues to watch is President-elect Donald Trump’s upcoming administration, which they said is likely to result in less federal regulation for businesses.

“The expectation is that the (U.S. Department of Labor) would have a different direction under Trump,” Mr. Walls said.

Mr. Walls added that changes are likely in store for the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the way workplace safety is regulated.

“(President-elect Trump) is an advocate for less federal regulation,” he said.

Other issues to watch in 2017 included:

State reforms: Mr. Walls said he expects lawmakers in four states — New York, Illinois, California, and Florida — to introduce workers comp reforms in 2017. In Florida, for example, a proposal to allow employers to opt out of the state workers comp system could be introduced during legislative session, he said. However, he said an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling that found workers comp opt-out programs in that state to be unconstitutional could serve as a “boilerplate” for other states that want fight opt-out proposals.

New regulators: The 2016 election led to the election of 11 new governors. “These new governors will have appointments for insurance commissioners and judges” that could affect workers comp laws, Mr. Walls said.

Opioid prescribing: Ms. George said she expects there to be a continued decline in opioid prescribing in workers comp as more states implement prescription formularies and workers comp claim payers seek alternative pain management methods for injured workers. Such treatments could include physical therapy and encouraging claimants to practice mindfulness instead of using addictive pain medications.

Patient advocacy: “Advocacy has become a buzz word in our industry,” Ms. George said, noting that improving communication with injured workers could lead to less litigation. “I think we need to be open to patient-centered treatment.”

Automation: Mr. Walls said that retail automation could mean fewer workers overall, which would mean fewer people who need to be covered by workers comp.