NOVEMBER‌ ‌2020‌ ‌UPDATE ‌‌ 

  • Election Results in Montana – What Does It Mean for the Session? 
  • Paduda – Facility Costs, Drivers and Solutions
  • Two Rules Hearings – Formulary Update and New Rules on Training Program Reimbursement
  • Look for the Website Soon!

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

  • Election Results in Montana – What Does It Mean for the Session?

That was some election. While nationally, there may be some questions yet, in Montana our election results are clear and convincing. As you already know, it was a complete sweep for Republicans. The Republican majority in both the House and Senate can now over-ride a Gubernatorial veto, if they choose, with 67 seats in the House and 33 seats in the Senate.  

New Legislative Leadership is:  

Senate: House:
President Mark Blasdel SD 4 Kalispell Speaker Wylie Galt HD 30 Martinsdale
Maj Ldr Cary Smith SD 27 Billings Maj Ldr Sue Vinton HD 56 Billings
Min Ldr Jill Cohenour SD 42 E. Helena Min Ldr Kim Abbott HD 83 Helena
Pres Pro Tem Jason Ellsworth SD 43 Hamilton Spkr Pro Tem Casey Knudsen HD 33 Malta
Min Caucus Chr Marilyn Marler HD 90 Missoula
Maj Whips Doug Kary SD 22 Billings Maj Whips Seth Berglee HD 58 Joliet
Steve Fitzpatrick SD 10 Great Falls Dennis Lenz HD 53 Billings
Gordy Vance SD 34 Belgrade Lola Sheldon-Galloway HD 22 Great Falls
Derek Skees HD 11 Kalispell
Barry Usher HD 40 Billings
Min Whips JP Pomnichowski SD 33 Bozeman Min Whips Tyson Runningwolf HD 16 Browning
Pat Flowers SD 32 Belgrade Laurie Bishop HD 60 Livingston
Diane Sands SD 49 Missoula Derek Harvey HD 74 Butte

Rules for the upcoming session have not been made yet, though I’ve been told that we should not bet against some kind of live, in person session. There are some bill draft requests for workers’ compensation law changes, but no specific direction on what the language might be yet with a couple of notable exceptions. In speaking with the drafter, he reported he has worked on only one bill so far, to exempt the State Fund from the state’s procurement and IT requirements. Another bill draft at the request of the Senate President, based on prior legislative language, would limit benefits for false statements about physical capabilities at the time of hire. At this point, all other language remains pending with draft legislation number secured, but no language or minimal direction behind them yet. Workers’ compensation does not appear to be as much of a hot button as it has been in past years. There will be some bills, but it is expected other issues will be the hot topics for the session, at least at this time.  

Also yet to be seen is how the session will run. While we’re likely to have a live session, some have suggested that a budget session be held, and the legislature adjourn, preserving a fair number of their 90 days to return for other issues, after COVID-19 has played itself out a bit more. That however, is sheer speculation. The Joint Committee on Rules, which will direct how the session will run, is set to meet on December 8.  

Governor-Elect Greg Gianforte has not announced any cabinet appointments yet but has announced members of his transition team and advisory committees. Below are the members of the Governor-Elect’s Advisory team for the Department of Labor and Industry. They are expected to make recommendations for the Director for the Department, though no date has been set for their recommendation.

Dept. of Commerce and Dept. of Labor and Industry transition advisors

  • Andrew Brekke of Havre, a vice president at Erickson Insurance Group. He is also a member of the Montana Insurance Guaranty Association Board of Directors.
  • Della Ehlke of Helena, a cattle rancher and owner of Montana Hydraulics
  • Kristen Heck of Kalispell, the president and owner of LC Staffing and founder of Loyal Care In-Home Assistance
  • Christina Quick Henderson of Missoula, the executive director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance and an adjunct instructor at University of Montana College of Business
  • Misty Kuhl of Billings, the director of Native American Outreach at Rocky Mountain College and an Aaniiih member of the Fort Belknap Indian Community
  • Tony Martel of Bozeman, the president of Martel Construction and former president of the Montana Contractors Association
  • Derek Swank, the executive vice president of Valier-based Swank Enterprises, a commercial construction company. He is also a former president of the Montana Contractors Association.
  • Thiel Brothers Roofing president Dexter Thiel, of Sidney, also a founding member and former president of the Montana Roofing Contractors Association
  • Former Kalispell Chamber of Commerce president Joe Unterreiner 
  • Steve Wahrlich of Billings, owner of the Best Western Plus ClockTower Inn & Stella’s Kitchen and Bake. He is also a member of Montana’s Tourism Advisory Council and a board member of the Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association.

Stay tuned. I have had a plaque on my desk for years that quotes a court decision, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” 1 Tucker 248, N.Y. Surr 18.

  • Facility Costs, Drivers and Solutions 

Joe Paduda recently presented Facility Costs, Drivers and Solutions, discussing the quality of hospital care, as measured by CMS and their costs measured against medicare. Paduda’s message was that workers’ compensation is a profit center for hospitals, although at less than 1% of total medical costs in the US, workers’ compensation issues are not likely to be high on hospital finance administrators’ lists. At the same time, we do have some leverage in the relationship because we are such a profit center and are very reliable payers. His overall message was not to focus on discounts available from hospitals, look at the data and determine the best overall outcome at the best price. The tools are available and while everyone looks for the deepest discount, they could be missing a better deal from a high quality, lower overall hospital cost somewhere else. You can learn more from the story, (may require free registration). 

  • Two Rules Hearings – 11/30 Formulary Update and 12/1 Qualified High Quality Work Based Learning Opportunity WC Premium Reimbursement

The Department of Lavor and Industry is holding a hearing on November 30 at 3:30p (Mountain Time) regarding the annual update to the workers’ compensation drug formulary. This is by all accounts an update based on the updates provided by the authors of the formulary, ODG. You can use this link to review the proposed rule change and learn how to attend the hearing, virtually: MSIA does not plan on providing comment on the annual changes. 

The Department is also holding a hearing on 12/1 at 10:00a (Mountain Time) regarding proposed rules implementing new law, MCA 39-71-319. That new law creates a program to provide employers reimbursement of workers’ compensation costs specifically assigned to the retention of students in an on-the-job training program which provides marketable skills and includes safety training. Based on the proposed rules, self-insured employers are to submit an attestation of what their premium increases were based on the program, for reimbursement eligibility from the state. The training program must be in a pre-approved partnership with an employer and a school which provides for employment as well as academic credit. Reimbursement requests will be based on funds available and on a first come, first served basis based on the date of application to the Department and are not guaranteed. You can use this link to review the proposed rule change and learn how to attend the hearing, virtually: MSIA does not plan on providing comment on these proposed rules. 

  • Look for the Website Soon!

We’re still working on the website and hope to have it up and running soon. Look for our leaders, “Who We Are and Why We’re Here” as well as the “Where We Stand” sections. Members will have access to internal communication and membership contacts. Hopefully, we’ll have up and running before the December Update.  

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. 

Please stay safe and stay well, 

Peter Strauss, Executive Director

Montana Self Insurers Association

520 Monroe Ave

Helena, MT 59601