July‌ ‌2020‌ ‌Update‌ 

  • MSIA Annual Meeting & Governor’s Conference on Workers Compensation – September Meeting Will be Virtual
  • LMAC June 11 Report – SIF, Independent Contractors, Telemedicine & COVID Claims
  • Economic Affairs Interim Committee – Update on Presumptive Diseases for Firefighters Law Implementation and Rates
  • Have You Made Your MSIA Dues Payment?   Together We Help Make the MT WC System Effective and Efficient

As always, if you have any questions or need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me via call or text at 406-431-7220 or by email at  Thanks – Peter

  • MSIA Annual Meeting & Governor’s Conference on Workers Compensation – Virtual Meetings September 29 – October 2

Typically, MSIA has held our annual meeting in conjunction with the Governor’s Conference on Workers Compensation in the fall.  The now virtual Governor’s Conference is scheduled for 9/29 – 10/2 (more information below).  We will host the MSIA virtual Annual meeting either 9/28 or 9/29.  We will make a special announcement regarding the MSIA Annual Meeting later this month.  Stay tuned!

While I look forward to meeting everyone and working with all of you, this year obviously it will be a little different.  Part of my plan is to try to make visits to members during the summer months, as your time and COVID permits.  If we can meet in person, we will try.  If not, Zoom, telephone and other electronic media will have to suffice.  I will be as flexible and as creative as possible. 

We appreciate that not everyone can attend every meeting.  Even so, there has to be a way for us to conduct business.  Our current bylaws do not discuss proxies specifically so we will set up a process by which we can assure ourselves the work that has to be done, can be accomplished through a proxy system for at least quorum purposes, if not votes on decisions.  To the extent you cannot make an Association meeting, please provide a proxy to someone else prior to the meeting.  As we make meeting announcements, we will provide proxy instructions and make it as easy as possible for you.  Again, look for an Annual Meeting announcement later this month. 

Likely Annual Meeting agenda items (subject to change) include:

  • MT Workers Compensation Issues MSIA Survey
  • MSIA Board of Directors Elections
  • Hot Topics in Workers Compensation
  • Montana Political Landscape Review 
  • Governor’s Conference on Workers Compensation - Registration is open for the 2020 Governor’s Conference on Workers’ Compensation.  From their website: 

Due to the ongoing uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are bringing this year’s conference to you via Zoom. Registration costs have been reduced to $49.

Topics on this year’s agenda include, but aren’t limited to:

• Communication Across the Ages - Keynote

• Return to Work Paradigm Shift – Keynote

• Physical Therapy from First Report to Return to Work

• Medical Marijuana

• An Altered State: California’s Workers’ Compensation in the Time of COVID-19

• Injury & Illness Risks Associated with Aging

• Return to Work

• Ethics

• 20 Hot Topics in Workers’ Compensation

  • LMAC June 11 Report – SIF, Independent Contractors, Telemedicine & COVID Claims

The Labor Management Advisory Council (LMAC) met Thursday 6/11 for the first time since shut-down.  When LMAC was first created, MSIA was represented by both Bob Worthington and Annette Hoffman of St. Vincent’s Health as original members.  LMAC was created as a mechanism to discuss public policy issues, and if possible, reach agreement on changes to the workers’ compensation system.  LMAC has agreed that four out of five votes, on each side are required to move an issue forward for public policy changes.  

Hoffman retired earlier this year and the seat is currently open.  MSIA Executive Director Peter Strauss has expressed interest in serving on the Council to continue our representation.  There is some consideration for greater small business participation on LMAC however.  Regardless, we will continue to monitor and participate in the LMAC discussions.  

ERD started the meeting with a report on the issues they have had to deal with as a result of the COVID shut-down.  They have created a work-around for those documents which require notarization and have made SafetyFest Miles City a virtual event.  The ERD leadership and staff, as well as whole of the Department of Labor and Industry have worked tirelessly to make our systems work even during these extra-ordinary circumstances.  The notarization work-around is merely one example of the creativity and dedication they have demonstrated.  

SIF - The question of continuing the Subsequent Injury Fund (SIF) in its current form generated a fair amount of discussion.  MSIA member Mike Marsh brought up the point that there are a number of self-insureds who are benefiting from the program and therefore we should not dismiss it so quickly.  His perspective is that a SIF can be part of a larger stay at work, return to work effort.  As it is constituted now, SIF does not significantly contribute to those efforts, but with changes, it could.  

A motion to eliminate SIF passed but did not garner enough business support for LMAC to take action.  LMAC did agree to have language be drafted for review and decision at the next meeting on July 15.  The language is expected to be relatively simple, to terminate the acceptance of new injury claims as of a date certain.  MSIA members have reported either a lack of a strong opinion or in favor of elimination.  As we did not have a strong opinion and had a conflicting statement, MSIA did not take a position at this meeting.  Based on continuing discussions with members, we are likely to recommend elimination of SIF in its current form.  If there is desire to reconstitute a SIF program to more directly tie it to return to work or stay at work results, MSIA would not oppose that effort.  However, that will take legislative changes and there would have to be a program unlike others enacted in the state to this point for there to be a real impact.

Benefit Notice - ERD proposed a change in the statutory obligation requiring the benefit pamphlet be produced by them and distributed by the insurer involved in the claim.  The proposed language would permit the insurer to include additional language and for ERD to provide language regarding benefits provided by a non-profit that may be available to claimants.  LMAC supported including information about the non-profit benefit potential.  ERD was tasked with exploring what issues insurers may have with the additional distribution of the same information by ERD directly to the injured worker.  

Telemedicine & COVID - LMAC heard an update on Telemedicine and COVID claims within the system as of that date (attached).  Please note the COVID information is based on the claims made and FROI reporting of those claims.  Under current IAIABC rules, if there are no indemnity benefits provided, there is no SROI (Subsequent Reporting of Injuries) reporting required.  Marsh suggested LMAC consider requiring SROI reporting on all claims.  ERD Medical Director Dr. Cook-Shimanek is putting together a larger group reviewing the expansion of telemedicine within the workers’ compensation system and MSIA has accepted the invitation to participate. 

Independent Contractors - LMAC heard the report and recommendations from the Task Force on Wage Integrity and Misclassification in the Construction Industry from last December (WageTheftReport).  The recommendations include a broader educational effort on independent contractors, expanding who is an in-eligible independent contractor and increasing penalties for violations of the law.  The Task Force recognized there is more to the issue and will continue to meet on the topic.  LMAC was not asked to take a position on the recommendations (full report attached).  

The next LMAC meeting scheduled for July 15 has been canceled.  We will keep you up to date regarding the next meeting, the agenda and how to attend. 

  • Economic Affairs Interim Committee – Presumptive Disease Law Update

The legislative Economic Affairs Interim Committee (EAIC) which generally has responsibility for workers compensation issues during the interim of the legislative sessions, met June 30 and July 1.  About the only discussion directly on workers compensation issues was a report from MSIA member Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority and Montana State Fund and on the implementation of the new presumptive disease law for firefighters.  The new law, patterned after Idaho law, gradually provides presumptive coverage for different cancers for firefighters, based on years of active service.  As a result, with no experience to date based on the July 1, 2020 effective date, there has not been a law-based change in professional (paid) firefighters rates in the marketplace.  The law is optional for volunteer firefighter departments.  As a result there will be a mish-mash of coverage in effect, and as time goes on for professional departments, more diseases will be covered as presumptively caused by the work.  Ultimately the costs will go up if only for the simple reason that diseases that may or may not be covered now, will be covered.  The committee requested a summary report from staff to be prepared for their next meeting on September 10.  EAIC also heard from a firefighter who was displeased with the law as it did not automatically and immediately provide coverage, nor did it provide coverage for all firefighters.  This issue will very likely be subject to legislative consideration in 2021.   

Of interest as well, the EAIC heard from their legislative counsel a report on COVID based liability protection laws passed in other states, as ideas the Montana legislature may want to consider.  Counsel reported on new laws which seem to be the basis for other states’ actions.  

MA has passed what seems to be a model liability protection for health care providers and health care facilities.  

IA has passed a broader-based overall business liability protection law for COVID related disease treatments and fatalities if the business followed governmental guidelines for COVID safety.  

LA has passed a law providing protections for the restaurant industry, again, if they are in compliance with guidelines for COVID safety.  

If you would like additional information on these new laws, please contact Peter Strauss at the MSIA office.  As was pointed out during the EAIC meeting, these laws are too new to have been through court tests.  We may have some results by the time the Montana legislature returns in January.   

While there are rumors swirling around Helena, the general feeling is absent some significant change, there is not likely to be a special session to address this kind of language for Montana.  The Department of Labor has produced the attached chart providing a graphic display of their perspective on coverage for COVID related issues.  EAIC is scheduled to meet again September 10.  

  • MSIA Annual Dues 

Thank you to those members who have responded already with their annual dues payments.  MSIA remains a good bargain for workers compensation information, the opportunity to hear from other insurers about issues and national contacts.  MSIA will renew our membership in the National Council of Self Insurers again.  At one time, MSIA was a leader in the organization and it provides information on topics, data, laws and trends impacting the workers’ compensation systems throughout the country.  Their information and contacts will help us as we move the Montana system forward.  

Who knows what the election results will bring?  A unified voice working towards an effective and efficient system is the best voice for Montana business and workers.  Your participation makes a difference.  If you know someone or an organization who should consider membership, please contact our Executive Director.        

If you need a W 9 or a formal receipt for your dues payment, please let us know. 

Thanks again for your support.  If you have any questions, or need additional information about the MT workers’ compensation system or other systems, don’t hesitate to contact us. 

Stay safe and stay well, 

Peter Strauss, Executive Director

Montana Self Insurers Association

520 Monroe Ave

Helena, MT 59601