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Tag: 2017 News

CWCI Reports on New 2018 Comp Related Law

The California Workers’ Compensation Institute this week released a report on a list of bills that will affect the workers’ comp system.

The bills were recently signed into law at the end of the Legislative session by Gov. Jerry Brown. Here is the CWCI’s recap of those bills as reported by the Insurance Journal:

Physician Access to CURES (AB 40, Santiago): Enables medical providers to use third-party software to access information about a patient’s prescription drug history from the state’s prescription drug monitoring program (CURES). Currently, providers can only access this information through the CURES website, but AB 40 will simplify the process by allowing them to link their systems directly to CURES, eliminating the need to log on to the website and perform a manual search.

Advocacy Services for Workers Injured by Terrorist Acts (AB 44, Reyes): Requires employers to provide immediately available advocacy services for workers injured by acts of domestic terrorism. Advocates (nurse case managers) will be responsible for helping these injured workers obtain medical treatment and helping their medical providers obtain treatment authorizations and payments. The bill was introduced in response to medical treatment issues that arose on claims filed by workers following the December 2015 terrorist attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.

Liens Filed by Suspended Providers (AB 1422, Daly): Extends the automatic stay on liens filed by medical providers charged with criminal fraud so that it runs from the time the criminal charges are filed all the way through the suspension hearing. The bill closes a loophole in existing law that gave providers an opportunity to pursue liens for payment between the time they were convicted of fraud and the point at which they were suspended. AB 1422 further clarifies that these rules also apply to entities controlled by individuals charged with criminal fraud.

Drug Transparency (SB 17, Hernandez): Requires pharmaceutical companies to notify health insurers and government health plans at least 60 days before scheduled prescription dnrg price hikes that would exceed 16 percent over a two-year period and to explain the reasons behind those increases.

Limits on Assistance to Immigration Enforcement Agents (SB 54, DeLeon): Requires the state attorney general to draft model policies for state agencies, including the Department of Workers’ Compensation, “limiting assistance with immigration enforcement to the fullest extent possible consistent with federal and state law.” The model policies are to cover state buildings, including those used by the DIR, the DWC, and the WCAB. The bill requires the attorney general to adopt the model policies by Oct. 1, 2018.

Workers’ Comp Exemptions for Officers and Directors (SB 189, Bradford): Allows corporate officers and directors who own at least 10 percent of a business to opt out of workers’ comp coverage for themselves if they sign a waiver stating that they are covered by a health insurance plan. The 10 percent threshold is a reduction from the 15 percent threshold established by AB 2883 in 2016. This bill also includes a conclusive presumption that a person who executes a waiver is not covered by workers’ compensation.

New State Compensation Insurance Fund Executive Positions (SB 272, Mendoza): Enables the State Compensation Insurance Fund Board to appoint a chief underwriter, chief information security officer, senior vice president of insurance services, executive vice president of corporate claims, executive vice president of strategic planning, and a pricing actuary. Each of these are executive positions, exempt from civil service protections.

Retaliation Complaint Investigations and Awards (SB 306, Hertzberg): Expands the Labor Commissioner’s ability to investigate complaints by employees that their employer retaliated or discriminated against them in response to protected conduct (which may include filing or testifying on behalf of a coworker in a workers’ compensation claim, repealing safety violations, etc.). SB 306 allows the commissioner to initiate investigations of such claims without having to go to court to obtain an enforcement order, and to obtain an award for attorney’s fees and costs when it successfully prosecutes a retaliation claim through the courts.

CIGA Reinsurance (SB 430, Senate Committee on Insurance): Enables the California Insurance Guarantee Association (CIGA), upon the approval Of the Insurance Commissioner, to purchase reinsurance for its workers’ compensation fund from any reinsurer licensed in California. This removes the current restriction that has only allowed CIGA to purchase reinsurance from its member companies even though most re-insurers in the state are not CIGA members.

Emergency Room Physician Bills (SB 489, Bradford): Extends the deadline for emergency room physicians to submit their bills to workers’ compensation claims administrators from 30 days to 180 days, for treatment provided under SB 1160’s pass-through provisions for certain treatment provided during the first 30 days following injury.

Is California Competitive Enough for Amazon’s New HQ?

Dozens of cities are working frantically to land Amazon’s second headquarters, raising a weighty question with no easy answer: Is it worth it? An article in Mercury News answers this question with a big “yes.”

“Most economists say the answer is a qualified yes.” Amazon is promising $5 billion of investment and 50,000 jobs over the next decade and a half. “For the right city, winning Amazon’s second headquarters could help it attain the rarefied status of ‘tech hub,’ with the prospect of highly skilled, well-paid workers by the thousands spending freely, upgrading a city’s urban core and fueling job growth beyond Amazon itself.”

It’s that hope that has triggered excitement, from such metropolises as New York, Boston and Chicago to tiny Maumee, Ohio (population 14,000). The deadline for submissions was October 19.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Southern California region has several willing candidates that are expected to submit bids, including Irvine, Santa Ana and San Diego.

Other known contenders will be communities in Los Angeles County, where a regional effort includes locations in Los Angeles and Pomona, where Cal Poly Pomona and the Fairplex have offered up land.

According to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., which is helping coordinate the regional effort, the L.A. County bid contains nine separate sites that would each fulfill Amazon’s requirements. Some of the locations are outside Los Angeles and Pomona, but a spokesman declined to name them or the individual sites.

“This is a highly competitive process and we do not want to give our competitors around the country any information that could be used to strengthen their hands,” Lawren Markle said.

The city of Irvine and the Irvine Co. are expected to submit a combined bid. They, too, have been largely mum since the developer issued a news release a day after Amazon announced its competition.

A possible location for Amazon could be land the Irvine Co. owns around the Irvine Spectrum. A company spokesman didn’t return emails seeking comment.

Gov. Jerry Brown has been supportive of the effort to lure Amazon, writing a cover letter for communities to include in their proposals. Addressed directly to the Amazon CEO, the letter cites the state’s strong university system and talented workforce as reasons the company should give “careful consideration to the many California cities interested in becoming the next home for Amazon’s newest headquarters.”

Brown’s office also supplied communities with a list of possible state tax credits available to Amazon – something the tech company asked for in its request for proposals. Among the subsidies available under current law are up to $200 million as part of the California Competes Tax Credit program and up to $100 million in workforce training funds. Brown has also pledged to establish a multi-agency “strike team” that can help expedite permits and approvals.

Some cities are considering packages of their own. In Chula Vista, the City Council was expected to debate a $400-million incentive deal Tuesday evening.

Good luck with all that! The Chief Executive Magazine 2017 ranking of the 50 Best and Worst States for Business “California anchored the bottom of the list at No. 50 for the sixth consecutive year, New York wallowed at No. 49 and Illinois listed at No. 48.” .

Brown Vetos Anti-Apportionment Law – for Third Year

This year, AB 570 was the only substantial workers’ compensation related proposed law on the horizon.

AB 570 in the broad analysis was an attempted rollback of permanent disability apportionment rules. The purpose of the bill was to eliminate elements of what the author believes is gender bias in the workers’ compensation system.

According to the author, women can receive disproportionately low compensation amounts for work-related permanent disability because of the gender-specific conditions of pregnancy and childbirth. The author points to specific examples where the evaluating physician has pointed to pre-existing conditions that have involved pregnancy or childbirth in apportioning the causation of subsequent industrial injuries, and argues that this constitutes an inappropriate discrimination, since male injured workers can never have their disability apportioned in this manner.

This bill would have prohibited apportionment in the case of a physical injury occurring on or after January 1, 2018, based on pregnancy, childbirth, or other medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. It is similar to AB 1643 (Gonzalez) of 2016 which would have prohibited apportionment in cases of physical injury based on pregnancy, menopause, osteoporosis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. AB 1643 passed the legislature last year but was vetoed by the Governor.

AB 570 was passed by the legislature by the end of session this year, but was vetoed by the Governor as he has done in the past. His signing message said the following.

“I am returning Assembly Bill 570 without my signature.”

“This bill would prohibit apportionment of permanent disability, in the case of a physical injury occurring on or after January 1, 2018, from being based on pregnancy, childbirth, or other medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. I am vetoing this bill for the same reasons that I vetoed similar measures Assembly Bill 1643 in 2016 and Assembly Bill 305 in 2015.”

“The California Constitution provides that the Legislature shall create a complete system of Workers’ Compensation so that employers compensate employees for injuries sustained in the course of their employment. To that end, Labor Code Section 4663 provides that the employer shall only be liable for the percentage of permanent disability directly caused by the injury. AB 570 is in direct contradiction to this Constitutional mandate and legislative scheme because it requires employers to be liable for non-work related injuries. This measure would extend the scope of the workers’ compensation system well beyond what it is meant to do: compensate injured workers who suffer a work related injury.”

“I agree with the Author that there is no place for gender discrimination in the workers’ compensation system. However, it is not discrimination to have a gender-neutral system in which only permanent disability that results directly from work injuries is compensable. The creation of a broad exception to the apportionment statutes for medical conditions that affect only women would create a gender-based classification and would not be likely to withstand constitutional challenge.”

“I am committed to ensuring that California’s workers’ compensation policy treats all injured workers fairly and that every worker, regardless of gender, is adequately compensated for their injury. I encourage proponents of this bill to support continuing efforts to educate medical evaluators on current laws prohibiting gender bias.”

The California Applicant Attorneys Association (CAAA) responded to the Governor’s letter with a brutal spoof “Father Knows Best” on its website. This issue will likely be raised again next year.

AFLAC Employee Gets 10 Years for Fake Disability Claims

A one-time sales representative for AFLAC was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after being convicted of federal fraud charges related to a scheme that used bogus disability claims to bilk the insurance company out of more than $4 million.

Patricia Diane Smith Sledge, 61, of Redlands, was sentenced by United States District Judge James V. Selna. In addition to the prison term, Judge Selna ordered Sledge to pay $4,166,063 in restitution.

Following a two-week jury trial late last year, Sledge was found guilty of six counts of mail fraud, as well as two counts of witness tampering.

The fraud scheme involved fictitious employers and bogus employees who falsely claimed to have suffered injuries that prevented them from working.

The evidence presented at trial showed that Sledge – who was residing in Irvine while working for the company formally known as American Family Life Assurance Company – sold disability insurance policies to bogus companies and people who supposedly worked for those companies. Sledge then orchestrated the filing of fraudulent disability claims and directed the purported employees to doctors that would sign off on the fake injury claims.

Sledge made money both from the commissions related to the sale of the fraudulent insurance policies and from kickbacks she received from the supposedly injured “employees.”

Sledge exploited her knowledge of AFLAC’s internal policies and underwriting procedures to further the scheme. For example, Sledge and others involved in the scheme listed artificially inflated incomes on the applications for insurance because the amount AFLAC paid on disability claims was based on the policyholder’s income.

Sledge was also found guilty of witness tampering for encouraging potential witnesses to lie to federal investigators and discouraging them from cooperating in the investigation. One of these crimes was committed while she was on bond in this case.

Three others have been prosecuted for acting as fake employers and fake employees in this scheme.

The case against Sledge and the others involved in the scheme is the result of an investigation by United States Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and California’s Department of Insurance.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vibhav Mittal of the Santa Ana Branch Office and Assistant United States Attorney Joshua O. Mausner of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.

O.C. Deputies File Comp Claims for Vegas Shooting

The Orange County Register reports that four Orange County sheriff’s deputies have filed workers compensation claims against the county for physical and psychological injuries they say they suffered when they attended a country music festival in Las Vegas where a gunman killed 58 people.

Several Orange County deputies at the Route 91 Harvest festival quickly assumed life-saving roles – protecting the perimeter of the area with a shotgun in one case and administering medical care in other instances. Though the deputies were in Las Vegas on their personal time, their workers’ compensation claims will make the case that they acted as on-duty law enforcement officers when they sprang into action to help others.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors is set to meet Tuesday, Oct. 17, in closed session to discuss the claims.

The deputies filed their claims only a few days after the Oct. 1 shooting in which 64-year-old retiree Stephen Paddock fired into the festival crowd, killing 58 people and wounding more than 500.

Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, said he traveled to Las Vegas the day after the shooting and, while there, encouraged his deputies who had helped others the night before to file claims. Those claims, if approved, could require the county to pay medical bills connected to the episode. The deputies also wouldn’t have to use vacation or sick days to take time off for their injuries.

“The sheriff’s department has an expectation that its deputy sheriffs, that when they are faced with circumstances where the public is in grave danger – they should take action,” Dominguez said.

“The county has to be very cautious in these cases,” Dominguez added. “If they deny the claims, then the message that they’re sending to their peace officers is not to take action when it is certainly warranted.”

The county did not name the deputies who submitted claims. But following the shooting, the Southern California News Group reported the experiences of several Orange County deputies on the scene.

Deputy Joe Owen, sustained non-life-threatening injuries after he was shot in the abdomen and thigh. Deputy Melanie Cooper administered CPR on six of seven people, later saying the event was the “most traumatic thing I’ve ever been through.” Deputies Mark Seamans and Brandon Mundy helped people escape and applied medical care to others. And Deputy Garrett Eggert, using a shotgun given to him by local law enforcement, helped to protect the perimeter.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer said he asked the board to consider the claims in closed session after he learned the county likely would have rejected them administratively. Spitzer said under a strict interpretation of California law, workers’ compensation might only extend to law enforcement officers responding to an emergency within the state. But he said he didn’t want the claims to be rejected summarily because he didn’t want to dissuade deputies from helping in emergencies in the future.

“These police officers went into their instinctive training mode, and I’m not going to send a message that Orange County is going to abandon any of its peace officers who are trying to save lives,” said Spitzer, who is running for district attorney.

Dominguez disagreed with Spitzer’s interpretation of California workers’ compensation law but acknowledged that it is an extremely rare occurrence for police officers to file claims stemming from incidents that occurred out of state. He could not recall another time that had happened in Orange County.

DOJ Attempts Prosecution of Chinese Nationals for Illegal Fentanyl

The DOJ announced that federal grand juries in the Southern District of Mississippi and the District of North Dakota returned indictments against two Chinese nationals and their North American based traffickers and distributors for conspiracies to distribute large quantities of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues and other opiate substances in the United States.

The Chinese nationals are the first manufacturers and distributors of fentanyl and other opiate substances to be designated as Consolidated Priority Organization Targets (CPOTs). CPOT designations are those who have “command and control” elements of the most prolific international drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.

Xiaobing Yan, 40, of China, was indicted in the Southern District of Mississippi on two counts of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute multiple controlled substances, including fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, and seven counts of manufacturing and distributing the drugs in specific instances. Yan allegedly operated websites selling acetyl fentanyl and other deadly fentanyl analogues directly to U.S. customers in multiple cities across the country.

Yan also operated at least two chemical plants in China that were capable of producing ton quantities of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues. Yan monitored legislation and law enforcement activities in the United States and China, modifying the chemical structure of the fentanyl analogues he produced to evade prosecution in the United States.

Over the course of the investigation, federal agents identified more than 100 distributors of synthetic opioids involved with Yan’s manufacturing and distribution networks. Federal investigations of the distributors are ongoing in 10 judicial districts.

Jian Zhang, 38, of China, five Canadian citizens, two residents of Florida, and a resident of New Jersey were indicted in the District of North Dakota for conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and fentanyl analogues in the United States. Zhang allegedly ran an organization that manufactured fentanyl in at least four known labs in China and advertised and sold fentanyl to U.S. customers over the Internet.

Elizabeth Ton, 26, and Anthony Gomes, 33, both of Davie, Florida were arrested. On Oct. 12, Darius Ghahary, 48, of Ramsey, New Jersey was arrested. Ton, Gomes, and Ghahary are charged with drug trafficking conspiracy in the Zhang indictment.

The investigations revealed a new and disturbing facet of the opioid crisis in America: fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are coming into the United States in numerous ways, including highly pure shipments of fentanyl from factories in China directly to U.S. customers who purchase it on the Internet.

“Zhang and Yan are the first Chinese nationals designated as Consolidated Priority Organization Targets (CPOTs),” said Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. “CPOTs are among the most significant drug trafficking threats in the world.” Twenty-one individuals in total have been indicted on federal drug charges in both North Dakota and Oregon as part of the investigation.

Panel Allows “Interrogatory” in Comp Litigation

On March 18, 2015, Margaret Nadey submitted a Workers’ Compensation Form DWC-1 to her employer Pleasant Valley State Prison, claiming injury to her right shoulder. She later filed an application for adjudication, claiming she suffered a specific injury to her shoulders and lower extremities  on November 11, 2014 while employed by defendant as a nurse.

Defendant sent Nadey a letter stating: “Pursuant to Labor Code section 4663(d), we hereby request disclosure of ALL permanent disabilities or physical impairments that existed prior to the injury.”

Labor Code section 4663(d) states: “An employee who claims an industrial injury shall, upon request, disclose all previous permanent disabilities or physical impairments.”

After Nadey and her attorney failed to respond, defendant filed a Motion to Compel, seeking to compel applicant to respond to the letters it had sent. The WCJ issued a ruling denying the Motion to Compel and the defendant filed a Petition for Removal. A panel reversed and remanded the issue in the case of Nadey v Pleasant Valley State Prison.

The Report of the WCJ in opposition to removal appeared to suggest that defendant should be required to depose applicant if defendant wishes to obtain information about applicant’s prior disabilities. The WCAB panel found “no support for this contention in the language of the statute, which states clearly and unequivocally that applicant “shall” disclose such information ‘upon request.’ “

The panel went on to note that “If the Legislature intended such information to be only discoverable at a deposition, it would not have worded the statute in the manner it did. Moreover, we see little sense in mandating that such a basic disclosure be accomplished via the costly and time-consuming method of taking a deposition.”

“We note that the Petition to Compel Disclosure does not include a timeframe for response, or mandate any particular method of response. We will therefore return the matter to the trial level for further proceedings. We suggest the parties confer among themselves and resolve the details amicably in a mutually satisfactory manner; if the parties cannot do so, they make seek a hearing before the WCJ, who can then determine the details of how applicant shall make the required Labor Code section 4663(d) disclosures.”

Fallout from 60 Minutes Opiate Expose Hits Proposed Drug Czar

Over the weekend, “60 Minutes” broadcast a story describing how a change in federal law last year curbed the ability of the Drug Enforcement Administration to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from those companies.

Joe Rannazzisi, former head of the Office of Diversion Control for the DEA, was interviewed. He said members of Congress and the drug industry ultimately overcame earlier objections from law enforcement and won the day.

And it turned out that Trump’s nominee to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy championed the industry-friendly legislation that vexed lawman Rannazzisi. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), the nominee, helped steer the drive to go easier on the drug companies.

And there was substantial fallout from the story. President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican, has withdrawn his name from consideration to become the nation’s next drug czar. A replacement candidate will have to be picked.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was among those calling for the withdrawal on Monday. Before Trump’s announcement Tuesday, Manchin, who represents one of the hardest-hit states in the epidemic, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day” that Marino’s bill “allowed hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people get killed.”

“Over my dead body will he be the drug czar,” he said.

“There’s no way that in having the title of the drug czar that you’ll be taken seriously or effectively by anyone in West Virginia and the communities that have been affected by this knowing that you were involved in something that had this type of effect,” Manchin said.

The congressman’s withdrawal comes after a joint CBS “60 Minutes” and Washington Post report revealed that Marino took nearly $100,000 from the pharmaceutical lobby while sponsoring a bill that made it easier for drug companies to distribute opioids across American communities and thwart the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Trump spoke with radio host Brian Kilmeade following Marino’s decision. “He told me, look, if there is even a perception that he has a conflict of interest with insurance companies, essentially, but if there is even a perception of a conflict of interest, he doesn’t want anything to do with it,” Trump said.

It was not immediately clear what Trump meant when he referred to insurance companies. “There was a couple of articles having to do with him and drug companies and I will tell you, he felt compelled, he feels very strong about the opioid problem,” the President added. “Tom Marino said, ‘Look, I’ll take a pass, I have no choice, I really will take a pass, I want to do it.'”

60 Minutes – Washington Post Investigates 2016 Opioid Friendly Law

According to a joint explosive investigative report by “60 Minutes”  that aired this Sunday and the concurrent story published the same day by  the Washington Post, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration in April 2016 of its potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets.

The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns.

The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar. Marino spent years trying to move the law through Congress. It passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) negotiated a final version with the DEA.

Marino declined repeated requests for comment. Marino’s staff called the U.S. Capitol Police when The Post and “60 Minutes” tried to interview the congressman at his office on Sept. 12. In the past, the congressman has said the DEA was too aggressive and needed to work more collaboratively with drug companies.

For years, some drug distributors were fined for repeatedly ignoring warnings from the DEA to shut down suspicious sales of hundreds of millions of pills, while they racked up billions of dollars in sales.The new law makes it virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies.

Political action committees representing the industry contributed at least $1.5 million to the 23 lawmakers who sponsored or co-sponsored four versions of the bill, including nearly $100,000 to Marino and $177,000 to Hatch. Overall, the drug industry spent $106 million lobbying Congress on the bill and other legislation between 2014 and 2016, according to lobbying reports.

“The drug industry, the manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and chain drugstores, have an influence over Congress that has never been seen before,” said Joseph T. Rannazzisi, who ran the DEA’s division responsible for regulating the drug industry and led a decade-long campaign of aggressive enforcement until he was forced out of the agency in 2015. “I mean, to get Congress to pass a bill to protect their interests in the height of an opioid epidemic just shows me how much influence they have.”

Besides the sponsors and co-sponsors of the bill, few lawmakers knew the true impact the law would have. It sailed through Congress and was passed by unanimous consent, a parliamentary procedure reserved for bills considered to be noncontroversial. The White House was equally unaware of the bill’s import when President Barack Obama signed it into law, according to interviews with former senior administration officials.

Top officials at the White House and the Justice Department have declined to discuss how the bill came to pass. Loretta E. Lynch, who was attorney general at the time, declined a recent interview request. Obama also declined to discuss the law.

A senior DEA official said the agency fought the bill for years in the face of growing pressure from key members of Congress and industry lobbyists. But the DEA lost the battle and eventually was forced to accept a deal it did not want.

The DEA and Justice Department have denied or delayed more than a dozen requests filed by The Post and “60 Minutes” under the Freedom of Information Act for public records that might shed additional light on the matter. Some of those requests have been pending for nearly 18 months. The Post is now suing the Justice Department in federal court for some of those records.

The successful effort of the opiate drug industry was also related to inside information on the DEA strategies obtained by the drug industry as a result of the “revolving door” of former DEA attorneys and investigators hired by the drug industry. At least 46 investigators, attorneys and supervisors from the DEA, including 32 directly from the division that regulates the drug industry, have been hired by the pharmaceutical industry since the scrutiny on distributors began.

Among them, Linden Barber, former associate chief council at the DEA. He’s now a senior vice president at Cardinal Health, one of the nation’s top drug distributors. Mike Gill, chief of staff for the former acting DEA administrator, was hired by one of the country’s largest healthcare law firms. And most recently, Jason Hadges, a senior DEA attorney overseeing enforcement, joined the pharmaceutical division of a high-powered D.C. law firm.

Soon after the report aired on “60 Minutes” Sen. Claire McCaskill announced she will push to repeal the 2016 law. The ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said her legislation is being introduced in response to the joint Washington Post and “60 Minutes” investigation.

State of Emergency Declared Over Hepatitis A Outbreak

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency over the deadly hepatitis A outbreak in California. An increase in the incidence of infectious diseases related to geographic risk may give rise to industrial injury claims under several theories of California law on AOE-COE.

The emergency proclamation, which was issued by Brown on Friday, allows the state to increase its supply of hepatitis A vaccines in order to control the current outbreak.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health declared a local outbreak of hepatitis A in September. San Diego and Santa Cruz have also declared local outbreaks.

According to the CDPH, there have been a total of 18 deaths so far – all in the San Diego area, which has reported 490 cases of hepatitis A and 342 hospitalizations. The CDPH said the Santa Cruz area has 71 reported cases and 33 hospitalizations; Los Angeles has 8 reported cases and 6 hospitalizations; and other regions in California have 7 reported cases and 5 hospitalizations. This brings the total number of cases in the state to 576 with 386 hospitalizations.

California is experiencing the largest hepatitis A outbreak in the United States transmitted from person to person – instead of by contaminated food – since the vaccine became available in 1996. According to the CDPH, the hepatitis A virus is spread when the virus is ingested by mouth from contact with hands, objects, food or drinks that are contaminated by the feces of an infected person.

The Department of Industrial Relations has a webpage dedicated to the topic of “Protecting Workers from Hepatitis A.” As part of their duty to correct unsafe or unhealthy conditions in the workplace (title 8 section 3203), The DIR says “employers should ask their local health departments whether hepatitis A vaccinations should be offered to employees who are at increased risk and if so, whether the local health department is available to assist.”

Employers must ensure that workplace restrooms are kept clean and sanitary (title 8 section 1526 in construction and section 3364 for other workplaces). Additional cleaning may be needed if persons outside of the workplace who are at greatest risk for hepatitis A infection (i.e., homeless persons or persons using illicit drugs) have used or have had access to workplace restrooms. The County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health has posted Hepatitis A Disinfection Guidelines.

Cal/OSHA is encouraging employers and workers at risk of exposure to the hepatitis A virus to review preventive measures posted online.In outbreak locations, workers who have direct contact with persons who are homeless or use illicit drugs have an increased risk of hepatitis A exposure in settings that include the following:

– Health care and laboratory
– Public safety and emergency medical services
– Sanitation and janitorial
– Homeless services and substance use treatment facilities

A person can be exposed to the hepatitis A virus after coming into contact with objects, food or drinks contaminated by an infected person. Employers should maintain a clean and sanitary workplace and provide proper handwashing facilities and protective equipment.