Council on Workers' Compensation
Meeting Minutes
GEF-1 Building
Madison, Wisconsin
July 18, 2017

The Department of Workforce Development provided public notice of this meeting under Wis. Stat.§19.84

Members present :  Ms. Bloomingdale , Mr. Buchen,  Mr. Dernbach(Chair), Ms. Frank, Mr. Fugina, Mr. Gunderson,  Ms. Johnson, Mr. Kent, Mr. Reader,  Mr. Redman,  Ms. Seiler; Ms. Thomas, and Mr.  Tindall 

Member Excused:   Mr. Schwanda

Staff present:  Mr. Krueger,  Ms. McCormick, Mr. Moreth, and Mr. O'Malley,

  1. Call to Order/Introductions:  Mr. Dernbach convened the Worker's Compensation Advisory Council(WCAC) meeting at approximately 10:00 a.m. in accordance with Wisconsin's open Meetings law. Mr. Dernbach called the roll of members. Members of the WCAC, the audience and Worker's Compensation Division staff introduced themselves.

  2. Approval of Minutes: A motion was made by Mr. Tindall to approve the minutes of the June 13, 2017 meeting.  Ms. Bloomingdale seconded the motion. The minutes were unanimously approved without correction.

    A motion was made by Mr. Reader, seconded by Ms. Bloomingdale, to approve the minutes of the June 20, 2017 meeting. The minutes included the proposals brought by members representing Labor regarding opioid use that were provided after the meeting. The minutes were unanimously approved without correction

  3. Correspondence:.  Mr. O'Malley advised that a letter dated July 3, 2017 from Department of Health Services (DHS) Deputy Secretary Thomas J. Engels was received. DHS requests changes to six subsections in Ch. 46, Wis. Stats., to clarify the statutory definition of employment for long-term care providers amended by 2015 Wisconsin Act 180. These provisions allow fiscal agents to cover all workers performing services for aging or disabled persons under one policy, eliminating the need for multiple policies to cover each individual worker. DHS recommends amending ss. 46.27(5m), 46.275(4m), 46.277(3r), 46.281 (1k), 46.2897(3), and 46.995(3), Wis. Stats., to include language that these statutes apply specifically for purposes of worker's compensation coverage

  4. Other Business of the Council: Mr. Dernbach summarized 2017 Senate Bill 338 (SB-338), introduced by Senator Cowles and Representative Horlacher, which would create the Hire Heroes program to provide transitional jobs to veterans. Under the bill, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) would compensate a participating employer for costs including a wage subsidy, federal social security and Medicare taxes, state and federal unemployment insurance contributions or taxes, and worker's compensation insurance premiums, if any, for up to 1,040 work hours per individual worker. SB-338 does not require any statutory changes to ch. 102, Wis. Stats.

    In follow-up to a question raised at the last WCAC meeting, Mr. Dernbach advised he spoke with Mr. Stokes with DHS' Division of Care and Treatment Services. DHS maintains a website that lists the location of substance abuse treatment facilities throughout the state. Mr. Dernbach provided the link to the website to WCAC members prior to the meeting.

    Mr. Dernbach also contacted the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) to inquire whether access would be permitted to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) for purposes of worker's compensation insurance and whether there was a way to track if a prescription was for a work-related injury or illness. DSPS indicated they will provide a formal, written response to the inquiry.

    The Wisconsin Compensation Rating Board (WCRB) prepared two reports related to medical costs expressly for use by the WCAC. The first report was "Price Indices for Professional Medical Services Administered to Injured Workers Covered by Wisconsin Worker's Compensation – Service Years 2011 through 2015" and the second was "Median Prices for Professional Medical Services Administered to Injured Workers Covered by Wisconsin Worker's Compensation – Service Years 2012 through 2015." The reports provided by the WCRB include information on medical only claims which differs from reports by the Workers' Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) that only contain information for claims with seven or more days of lost time. The WCRB reports found that the cost for the top 25 treatments accounts for 50 percent of the total spending for worker's compensation in Wisconsin. The WCRB is also working on a report at the request of the Labor members relating to the impact of proposed benefit increases.

    Mr. Dernbach advised that on July 14, 2017 Representative Jacque and Senator Wanggaard introduced 2017 Assembly Bill 434 (AB-434) relating to worker's compensation claims by certain public safety employees for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Currently law provides for coverage of three types of mental injuries—physical-mental, mental-mental, and mental-physical. When a non-traumatic mental stimulus causes mental injury, such as PTSD, this would be a mental-mental claim and has been recognized as compensable in Wisconsin since 1974.  Under School District No. 1 v. DILHR, to be compensable the mental injury must result "from a situation of greater dimensions than the day-to-day emotional strain and tension which all employees must experience." AB-434 would remove the requirement for a law enforcement officer, a fire fighter, or an emergency medical services practitioner to show extraordinary stress and would add a presumption that for these professions if an employee is diagnosed with PTSD, the condition arose out of the employee's employment. The burden of proof that the diagnosis is not related to employment would be on the party asserting it is not work-related. AB-434 co-sponsors have been invited to an upcoming WCAC meeting to discuss the proposal.

    DWD issued a press release on June 27, 2017 that the Wisconsin Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) approved an overall 8.46% rate decrease for worker's compensation premiums for business this year following a 3.19% decrease last year. Over 70% of industries had a rate decrease. Manufacturing saw a decrease of 9.28%. The overall decrease represents a savings of nearly $170 million for employers. The new rates are effective for policies starting on October 1, 2017.

  5. Adjournment: 

    A motion was made by Mr. Reader for the Labor and Management members to go into closed caucus. The motion was seconded by Ms. Bloomingdale. The motion passed unanimously and the members went into closed caucus at 10:35 a.m. The WCAC members remained in closed caucus and the meeting was adjourned at approximately 2:00 p.m.

    The next Worker's Compensation Advisory Council meeting will be held on August 22, 2017, at 10:00 a.m., location to be determined.