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The top work comp stories of 2010

A lot happened in the work comp world in 2010 – here are the top issues discussed here on MCM.
Mergers, acquisitions, and buyouts
This has been a very busy year for the financial folks. OneCall Medical, Intracorp, Sedgwick, SRS, Concentra, and CS Stars were all bought/acquired/recapitalized in 2010, and there may have been a couple more if the tax treatment of these deals had changed in 2011. More on what 2011 may bring in my annual predictions post later.
Opioids in work comp
WCRI, NCCI, CWCI – pretty much everyone who’s anyone in work comp research highlighted the growing problem of opioid usage in workers comp this year. California saw a five-plus-times growth in the use of opioids, and other states were equally challenged. One can only hope that all the attention will force states, payers, providers, and employers to take major steps to attack the overuse of opioids.
Federalizing workers comp
This gets the award for ‘non-story that refuses to die’. The ongoing game of whack-a-mole continued throughout 2010, as any junior legislative aide who mentioned-in-passing workers comp became ‘NEWS’ to those who saw evidence of nefarious plans by the national gubmint to take over workers comp. This started with inclusion of coverage for one condition in one town in one state in the reform bill, continued with the Baca bill (introduced for the umpteenth time and tabled for the umpteenth time), and now comes the 9/11 responders bill as yet more evidence of the ‘drive to Federalize’. (Jon Gelman is a very well respected attorney and effective advocate for workers’ rights, but his decade-plus long effort to reveal this ‘Federalization’ appears to be a classic case of finding links where there are none.
PPO litigation
The Louisiana appellate court’s ruling against Coventry was notable not only for the amount of the penalty/fine -$262 million – but because it negated, or more precisely subordinated, provider – PPO contract terms to onerous statutory notice requirements.
This marks yet another assault on the work comp PPO business, and follows several successful ‘silent PPO’ suits in Illinois.
Most Bizarre Story of 2010
Finally, the winner of the ‘Most Bizarre Story of 2010’ has to be new Florida GovernorRick Scott’s claim he will cut Florida work comp costs by 35%. I guess the guv likes a challenge; before he even got into office he convinced the State Senate to keep employers’ costs $34 million higher.

This is the same Rick Scott who received over $275,000 from AHCS (and affiliates), the Florida physician dispensing company that played a major role in forcing Florida employers to keep paying $34 million more for work comp drugs. According to the Workers Compensation Research Institute, physician dispensed drugs are the main reason Florida’s prescription drug costs were 38% higher than a 16-state average.
And the gravy train is still running; Green Solar, an affiliate of AHCS donated $25 grand to Scott’s inaugural…
Next – recapping my predictions for 2010.

2 thoughts on “The top work comp stories of 2010”

  1. Thanks Joe,
    I’m winding up my “hanging chads” from 2010 today, with an eye on a better organized desk in 2011. As usual, you made me smile and even let out a couple of chuckles with your infromative, but sometimes cynical style. Keep that info coming in the New Year. There’s always a take-away from your column.
    Happy 2011

  2. I was an adjuster at SCIF from 1989 to 2007.
    Starting in 1997, I expressed concern to SCIF Management that adjuster were approving Oxycontin on a wholesale level and the SCIF should require adjuster to send every request for Oxycontin to UR. I told Mgnt that I skoe with UR and SCIF’s own legal dept and they share my concerns and would be willing to meet with me and mgnt to fix this. SCIF mgnt refuse because they knew that if Oxycontin abuse was contained by my suggestion, then injured workers would have better recoveries whicj mean less treatment requests, etc. which mean fewey adjusters and managers needed. I know this is hard to believe( or is it?)

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates




A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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