Friday, July 1, 2011

MSA - An Issue Carriers & Injured Workers Can Agree On

Typically employer/carriers and injured workers are on opposite sides of any given issue in workers' compensation, but a recent move by the federal government should align the two interests.

In January the Obama Administration instructed federal agencies to identify regulations that place an unreasonable burden on businesses. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services responded to that order on June 6 by publishing a list of dozens of regulations that it intended to review for possible streamlining or elimination.

Medicare Secondary Payer Act rules were not on the target list.

The American Insurance Association (AIA) sent a letter to the department on Tuesday, urging it to review the burdensome reporting rules imposed by Section 111 of the Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 (MMSEA).

All states are affected by the MMSEA, and it is no secret that these provisions slow down, sometimes dramatically, the claims resolution process leaving injured workers hanging without compensation many times and employer/carriers incurring needless additional expense.

The regulations that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) operates under often lack clarity, are changed frequently without sufficient notice, and overall fail to reflect the operating standards in the insurance and workers' compensation industries (e.g. what CMS considers a "mass tort claim" is substantially different than what the insurance industry does).

While the AIA deals with the regulators, a coalition of insurers and employers has also been lobbying Congress to reform Medicare reporting requirements. The Medicare Advocacy Recovery Coalition supports adoption of House Resolution 1063, known as The Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers (SMART) Act, which would require CMS to give insurers and claimants firm guidance about how much money should be set aside in future medical settlements to protect Medicare's interest.

The likelihood of getting Congress' attention on this issue during this legislative session is not high, nevertheless the efforts of the insurance industry should be supported by groups advocating for the rights of injured workers.

I urge both insurance and injured worker lobbying groups to join the efforts to persuade the DHHS to include the MMSEA in the list of regulations that should be reviewed for efficiency modification.

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