August 2023 Update

  • Virtual Meeting on AMA Guides 6th Edition Updates 9/22 @ 1:00p
  • September 29 MSIA Business and Annual Meeting – Proxy Statement Available
  • MSIA Issues Survey - LMAC – Dues
  • Hearing on Joint Petitions Rule Change – Sept 9        
  • Draft Proposed Rule Change on Independent Contractors
  • ERD Announces Meeting on 6th Edition of AMA Guides Updates – September 22 at 1:00p

University of Montana – Bureau of Business & Economic Research Mid-Year Report          

The University of Montana Bureau of Business & Economic Research (BBER) presented their Mid-Year Economic Update to their projections from the end of last year. 

Here’s news you already knew – the projected recession in Montana did not happen, and it doesn’t look like it will happen, at least not this year. Inflation is down, although not to the levels the Federal Reserve (nor us) would like, labor access is better, but still tight, Montana’s growth is among the fastest in the country and there is little, if any, growth in state revenues. Let me explain that last point – 2021 and 2022 seemed like record years for growth in state revenue – fueled in part by Federal distributions of money (which in turn, lead to inflation – but that’s another story). This year, revenue growth is near flat – that’s not to say the state is not collecting a good bit, only that there is no growth in what they are collecting. 

Our overall economy is growing, as opposed to the winter projected decline. As Patrick Barkey, Director of the BBER said, “That’s a miss,” in projections. Montana has added over 17,000 jobs in the last year – almost 3000 in construction, over 2000 in professional and tech, almost 1700 in retail and over 4300 in accommodations and food – those are not recession results. The jobs growth rate is significantly faster than prior to the pandemic. One of the industries seeing some growth, but not nearly as strong, is health care, which continues to lag the rest of the state. Health care has taken a particularly harder beating in labor availability and costs, with health systems taking actions they would never have thought of as ‘normal’ pre-pandemic. The retention of traveling nurses, as an example, at labor rates significantly higher than full time staff, has lead to subsequent changes in health system economics – here as well as in the rest of the country. As one of Montana’s larger economic sectors, that’s a concern. 

Housing costs, as we all know, have gone through the roof, with most non-eastern Montana counties seeing property values increase 40% or more, in just the past two years. That leads to all of the discussion about property taxes. We have all received the new assessment numbers, based on projected sale price, and the state has estimated the actual tax level based on existing mill rates from the local entities – school districts, cities, towns, etc. However, ultimately, the mill rate, and therefore our taxes, are based on the actual budgets for those local entities, not the mill rate applied last year to meet their budgetary needs. Therefore, our taxes will not go up nearly as much as the assessed valuation of our property (including commercial property) has. How much they will go up is yet to be determined and will not be known until the fall - however, it will not be nearly as high an increase as the assessed valuation estimates. 

The assessed valuation information distribution has lead to lots of talk about property taxes – and there was plenty of talk about the issue at the seminar. Simply put – well, property taxes are never simple. The discussion leads to a logical conclusion (at least to me) about a review of the state’s entire tax structure and how we raise money for governmental services. That is a much larger discussion and cannot be concluded at least until the next legislative session. 

In the last election cycle (even numbered years) we saw a Constitutional Initiative attempt to limit tax revenue growth as has been done in California. While it appears attractive to base property tax assessment levels on a number from the past, and to limit future tax growth, it can be an interesting effort to continue to provide school, law enforcement, fire and other services based on prior numbers and limit growth, regardless of wage growth, infrastructure demands and population growth. CI 121 last time around was not permitted on the ballot for administrative reasons, and Montana businesses opposed the effort. With the assessment notices delivered and the sticker shock associated with them, there may be another effort to provide the California ‘solution’ to Montana. More information on their reports is available at Bureau of Business and Economic Research (

WC Medical Inflation – WCRI Report

That discussion seems a natural lead in to WCRI’s latest ‘Insights into Medical Inflation in Workers’ Compensation’ FlashReport, released Thursday, August 3. Medical inflation in both general health and in workers’ compensation has not seen the kind of increases energy, food and housing have seen in just 2021 - 2022. While those sectors saw inflationary increases of 25, 10 and 7 percent respectively, workers’ compensation medical prices have increased only 4 percent during the same time period. Workers’ compensation medical cost increases have recently been driven by hospital and ASC payments per claim, which, according to WCRI have significantly outpaced payments for non-hospital professional services. 

WCRI identifies that professional medical fee schedules have had the intended impact, in limiting medical price changes which in turn, have impacted overall costs. States with fee schedules in place from 2012 – 2022 saw a median increase of 7 percent overall, versus 24 percent in states without a professional fee schedule. In a change for us who lived through the 90’s and 00’s medical inflationary periods, WC medical inflation has been similar or slower than general health care system medical inflation. 

Again using the ten year period 2012 – 2022, WCRI found hospital fee schedules had a positive impact on limiting the growth in price and cost in workers’ compensation. Hospital outpatient surgical payments increased 54% in states with charge-based fee regulations and 45% in state with no fee schedule, compared to 27% and 17% respectively for states with fixed amount fee schedules and cost-to-charge ratio fee schedules. 

MSIA is a member of WCRI, through one of our public entity self insured members.

MSIA Annual Member Survey Coming Later this Month

Each year MSIA conducts a confidential member survey to help guide the Association in taking public policy positions. Your input helps us identify what is important and where we should spend our time and efforts. In preparation for the next legislative session in 2025, MSIA has been talking to public policymakers already about changes we would like to see in the Montana workers’ compensation system. We start with prior survey results and direction from the Board during the most recent legislative session. Going forward this year and next, your confidential responses to this survey will guide us. 

Our job is to represent your interests to make the Montana workers’ compensation system work better. We will do everything we can to accomplish those goals. 


Please consider your positions and share your thoughts with us – all responses will be held in the strictest of confidence – in fact when we store the responses on our system, they are identified by number, ‘response 1’, ‘response 2’, etc, and we immediately delete your email so no names are accidently associated with responses. 

Your input helps MSIA consider positions and to provide the rationale as to why our positions help make the Montana workers’ compensation system work better. All responses will be considered. Your Board of Directors will also weigh in on potential positions for the Association (however they will also not know who provided the comments). When there is a public policy proposal which may impact individual members, or the membership as a whole, we have reached out to you, to update you on the proposal through email, telephone or text to get your perspectives on the issues presented. Your responsiveness on those issues has been greatly appreciated and has helped us on a number of issues. 

MSIA Business & Annual Meeting – Proxy Needed if You Cannot Attend

Business Meeting starts at 8:15a

Guest Speaker - Debra Livingston – ‘Restoring the Worker’ at 9:00a

Sponsors: Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry & Hoven and Definiti Comp Solutions/Definiti Rx

The MSIA Business & Annual Meeting, this year sponsored by Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry & Hoven and Definiti Comp Solutions/Defniti Rx, will start at 8:15 on Wednesday September 27 at the Kimpton Armory Hotel in Bozeman. Our meeting kicks off the Governor’s Conference.

In addition to reviewing last meetings’ minutes, our financial results, proposed budget and bylaw changes, we will be electing new members of the Board of Directors. This year we will have two vacancies and are again calling for nominations from the floor. Ann Komac of MMIA will be retiring from there by the end of the year and will not be running for re-election. Jamie Haun of Rosauers has already retired and is no longer part of your Board. Two members have volunteered to join the Board, but this is an election, not an appointment. All members are encouraged to contact me with your interest (we can have more members of the Board than the current five), or to be nominated from the floor.


The agenda and a full package of the Business meeting material will be sent to members in early September (we include end of August financial information) for your review prior to the meeting. Hard copies will not be available at the meeting. Past information is available through the Governance Documents section of the Members Only section of our website: Members Only (

All members, both Associate and Employer members, are counted for the quorum. Your proxy statement, if you cannot send a representative is very important for us to be able to conduct business. Any employee of the member organization is eligible to represent the organization at the meeting – however, if you no one from your company will be there, we need your proxy for quorum purposes only; please provide the attached proxy so we can conduct business. As well, in reviewing our business, all member comments and concerns are heard. 

Debra Livingston – Restoring the Worker – MSIA Annual Meeting Starts at 9a

Livingston is the founder and President of ReEmployAbility which was founded in 2003. Livingston’s passion for helping injured workers coupled with and a vision to transform the way employers and insurance carriers approach return to work programs has created success stories across the country. Livingston’s multi-faceted workers’ compensation industry experience allows ReEmployAbility to take a unique approach to solving return to work challenges. ReEmployAbility serves Fortune 500 employers, the nation’s largest insurance carriers and third-party claims administrators, brokers, and self-insured employers. They offer return-to-work services that help employers and insurance carriers control the cost of workers’ compensation and disability claims, while positively influencing the lives of injured workers. 

The proprietary return to work program, Transition2Work, offers employers a cost-effective solution to modified light duty assignments, and reduces workers’ compensation and non-occupational disability claim costs while giving the injured worker time to heal and benefiting the community. ReEmployAbility provides simple, fast, safe return to work solutions to help control the rising costs of workers’ compensation and non-occupational disability while positively influencing the lives of injured workers. A CE Credit from the MT Department of Labor has been approved for this presentation. 

Governors’ Conference – Register Before Rates Go Up 2023 Governor's Conference (

Our meeting kicks off the Governor’s Conference again this year. In addition to Debra Livingston, Governor’s Conference speakers include:

  • Billy Parker - Keynote Speaker – the 2018 Injured Worker Comp Laude award winner for his safety awareness mission – from a ‘first-hand’ perspective
  • Dr. Kenji Saito - – The Future of Occupational Health: Challenges & Opportunities
  • Dr. Maggie Cook-Shimanek - Department of Labor & Industry – Low Back Pain & Cervical Spine Injury – U & T Guideline Updates
  • Vickie Kennedy - Linea Solutions – The Unsung Heroes in Workers’ Compensation
  • Dr. Gerry Stanely - Harvard MedTech – Is It Possible to Unlock the Brain to Heal Itself with Virtual Reality         
  • Steve Carey - Carey Law Firm – MT Case Law Update
  • Richard Piccolotto - Keynote Speaker – the highest ranking firefighter to survive the terrorist attacks on 9/11 – ‘Last Man Down – A Fireman’s Story’

Again this year, the Department of Labor has put together a quality program. Registration Rates go up September 5 – register and book your hotel room NOW!

  • Next MSIA Webinar – Opioid Sparing Options in Total Joint Replacements – Dr. Stan Dysart – Pacira Biosciences 
  • September 7, 10a MST, Sponsored by Turner Vocational Resources, LLC and The Preferred Medical 

Our next Webinar, set for 10a MST September 7, sponsored by Turner Vocational Resources and The Preferred Medical. ‘Opioid Sparing Options in Total Joint Replacements’ will be presented by Dr. Stan Dysart of Pacira Biosciences. With the opioid crisis still with us, and now the increase in opioid dependency drugs, I don’t know that we could be more timely in presenting this Webinar. 

Watch for the formal announcement coming soon. As always, MSIA members have access to unlimited seats to the Webinar and advance registration is required. We’ll see you (virtually) on September 7 at 10a MST!

Welcome New MSIA Member – Western Building Center

Western Building Center (WBC) provides their customers with the best possible materials and delivery in Northwest and Eastern Montana. We are dedicated to quality, service, and innovation, at competitive prices, all to create the best value for our customers. We help our customers work, build, and create solutions. We strive to support our local communities in any way we can.

Our goal at WBC is simple: to offer our contractor and homeowner customers with the best quality construction products and world class service at competitive prices. We carry out our goal by serving others as we would like to be served. That’s not just a saying to us; it’s something we aim for every day with our co-workers, suppliers, and customers. Our mission serving of our customers is possible only if the best people are part of the Western team. Our staff’s quality and efforts have earned Western Building Center’s good reputation. More than just retail, WBC provides the contractor with complete services from estimate tools to everything needed to put up a commercial building or home, including services to help you meet building code standards. For more information, contact Doug Shanks at or 406-257-7231.

MSIA Annual Dues are due – if you haven’t paid yet, please consider doing so today! We can take a check, ACH, credit cards or venmo (if necessary). 

I look forward to seeing you all at the MSIA Business & Annual Meeting starting at 8:15a on Wednesday, September 27 at the Kimpton Armory Hotel in Bozeman. If you cannot make the meeting – Associate and Employer members are requested to provide their proxy, for quorum purposes only, through the attached statement.