Trump Signs Order to Require Recipients of Federal Aid Programs to Work

Trump Signs Order to Require Recipients of Federal Aid Programs to Work

President Trump quietly signed a long-anticipated executive order on Tuesday intended to force low-income recipients of food assistance, Medicaid and low-income housing subsidies to join the work force or face the loss of their benefits.
And advocates for poor people questioned whether the order could achieve even modest goals, saying most able-bodied adults who receive noncash federal aid either already work or face significant impediments to doing so.
The order gave all cabinet departments 90 days to produce plans that impose work requirements on able-bodied aid recipients and block ineligible immigrants from receiving aid, while drafting “a list of recommended regulatory and policy changes” to push recipients off the rolls and into jobs.
“President Trump has directed his administration to study policies that are failing Americans,” said Andrew Bremberg, the president’s domestic policy chief, who briefed reporters on the order’s contents in a telephone call late Tuesday.
Journalists were not provided with copies of the document beforehand.
The aim, Trump aides said on the call, is to prod federal and state officials to take a tougher stance with aid recipients — millions of whom currently receive exemptions from existing work requirements because they are in training programs, provide care for relatives or volunteer their labor.
A 2017 study of Michigan’s Medicaid program by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation found that three-quarters of those enrolled in the program were already working or physically unable to do so.
The word “welfare” — politically loaded and often pejorative, especially among the president’s conservative supporters — has historically been used to describe cash assistance programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
The Trump administration wants to change the lexicon.
He calls all of them “welfare,” they said.

Pennsylvania hazmat, comp bill reawakens illness timeline questions

Pennsylvania hazmat, comp bill reawakens illness timeline questions

Reprints Pennsylvania lawmakers are now considering bill that would funnel exposure to asbestos and other hazardous materials and the long-latency illnesses they cause into workers compensation’s exclusive remedy, but union opponents say the bill puts strict parameters in place for those suffering from those illnesses.
2207, sponsored by 11 state representatives and introduced April 2, states that workers comp for certain conditions caused by chemical exposure would fall outside of existing state workers compensation law that says illnesses must fall within 300 weeks after the last date of employment in an occupation or industry to which a claimant was exposed to the hazards of disease.
The bill states that “claims filed for any disease for which the time period between exposure to the hazard of disease in the workplace and manifestation of disease is greater than three hundred weeks must be filed within three hundred weeks of the date on which a claimant is diagnosed with the disease or the disease is detectable.” It also states, “it shall be the claimant’s burden to prove that the disease for which compensation is sought has a latency period of more than three hundred weeks.” The bill has drawn opposition from the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, which is made up of more than 115 local unions.
“Exposure to asbestos can take 20 years to develop, the latency period is up to 20 years, so 300 weeks isn’t a very sufficient amount of time for people who have been damaged on a construction project or been exposed to asbestos,” said Frank Sirianni, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based president of the council.
Mr. Sirianni says that this legislation would not represent the council’s 136,000 working members.
The bill arrives five years after a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for former employees to bring common-law claims against companies that exposed them to hazardous materials, exposure that manifested into occupational diseases suffered more than 300 weeks after employment.
Steel Corp.
The bill would put legislative muscle on the timeline for developing occupational illnesses such as mesothelioma, which research shows is caused by asbestos long after exposure — and reawakens a longtime argument over chemical-induced occupational illnesses with long latency periods — and would put the claims back into the workers compensation system.
“This places these people back in, puts them in the funnel, in full control of workers comp insurers and employers,” he said, adding that the move away from tort law could complicate claims for injured workers and their families.
The bill now sits on with House’s Committee on Labor and Industry, which had not placed it on its calendar as of Tuesday.

Trump signs executive order pushing work requirements for the poor

Trump signs executive order pushing work requirements for the poor

President Donald Trump is now setting his sights on overhauling the nation’s safety net programs.
Also, the executive order asked agencies to consider adding work requirements to government aid programs that lack them. “The federal government should do everything within its authority to empower individuals by providing opportunities for work, including by investing in federal programs that are effective at moving people into the workforce and out of poverty,” the order read.
The Department of Agriculture also wants to strengthen the work requirements in the food stamp program.
Several states, particularly those with Republican leaders, have also been adding work mandates.
More than 74 million Americans are on Medicaid, while more than 41 million people receive food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
Getting people to work — even if they still need some assistance — is the first step to helping them gain economic independence, he said.
In households that receive SNAP and have at least one non-disabled adult, 58% are employed and 82% worked in the year prior to or after enrollment, according to the Center for American Progress.
Among Medicaid recipients, 60% of able-bodied, working-age adults have jobs, while nearly 80% live in families with at least one member in the labor force, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.
Instead of mandating employment, the president could do other things to help Americans gain economic independence, Vallas said.

California official who guided workers comp reforms retires

California official who guided workers comp reforms retires

The California Department of Industrial Relations is providing limited details on the announced retirement of Christine Baker, the department’s longtime director who helped execute reforms to curb workers compensation fraud and rein in painkiller prescribing, among other measures.
According to Ms. Baker’s March 30 announcement, sent via email to colleagues and provided to Business Insurance on Tuesday, the department’s leader retired that day after 34 years of service.
“Since our major reforms to workers’ compensation in 2012, we have increased benefits and improved care to injured workers, including increased benefits for permanently disabled workers,” Ms. Baker wrote.
“At the same time, these reforms prevented a rate spike for employers and instead led to rate reductions.
With evidence-based medicine, the prescription drug formulary and new tools we have been using to combat fraud, we are improving the treatment of injured workers and suspending from the system those who had profited through fraud at the expense of both workers and employers.” California Labor and Workforce Development Agency Secretary David Lanier praised Ms. Baker in a statement made the same day and provided to Business Insurance on Tuesday: “Through her thoughtful leadership, the department has worked with employees and employers to achieve what was once thought impossible — a workers compensation system that has increased benefits, improved medical care for injured workers and lowered rates for employers, a first in the nation heat standard for outdoor workplaces and the most protective regulation in the nation for the safety and health of refinery workers and surrounding communities.” Labor and Workforce Development Agency Undersecretary André Schoorl will be serving as acting director for the department, Mr. Lanier wrote.
A department spokesperson said there are no other details available about Ms. Baker’s resignation.

Insurance market evolving to handle terrorism risks: Marsh

Insurance market evolving to handle terrorism risks: Marsh

Reprints While the number of incidents and casualties declined in 2017, a report released Monday by Marsh L.L.C.
Although fewer people were killed in terrorist attacks in 2017 than in 2016, the Marsh report said the means of attack and perpetrators have shifted.
“Past attacks were carried out primarily by specific groups against perceived high-value-high-profile targets,” the report said.
“While that threat remains, many recent attacks have come against soft targets and been perpetrated by ‘lone wolves’ and small groups with no direct connection to known terrorist organizations.
Weapons of choice now include vehicles, knives and other handheld devices.” In 2017, the report said, pricing increased in five of the 17 industries surveyed by Marsh, with the sharpest increases being felt by hospitality and gaming companies, public entities and nonprofit organizations, which have been targets of terrorist acts in recent years.
Pricing declined in seven industries, the report said, most notably for energy and mining and construction companies, reflecting the generally positive conditions in the property insurance market prior to the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.
Sixty-two percent of U.S. companies in 2017 purchased coverage embedded in property policies under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2015, or TRIPRA.
Companies in the Northeast U.S. were most likely to purchase terrorism insurance, Marsh said.
January 2018 year-over-year pricing changes for a majority of reinsurance program renewals that included terrorism coverage averaged flat to an increase of 10% on a risk-adjusted basis, according to the report.
The Marsh report made several suggestions for businesses in the face of evolving terrorism risk, including continually reviewing and reevaluating their risk financing programs to ensure they have adequate protection for property, business interruption, workers compensation, general liability and cyber losses.

Court affirms FMLA interference dismissal, allows ERISA claim in firing

Court affirms FMLA interference dismissal, allows ERISA claim in firing

Mr. Stein gave that release slip to Atlas Industries’ workers compensation office.
After that visit, the doctor’s office notified Atlas that Mr. Stein could return to work with light duty restrictions in just two days.
Atlas expected Mr. Stein to return to work the following Monday, but Mr. Stein thought he was on leave for several more weeks so he didn’t show up for work or call in for three consecutive workdays and was fired, per company policy that employees who missed three workdays without notification were subject to automatic termination.
Mr. Stein argued that his termination violated FMLA regulations that prohibit an employer from firing an employee who fails to provide notice due to “unusual circumstances,” with Mr. Stein claiming he had no idea he was released for light-duty work and that Atlas’ handbook did not require him to call in.
“People make mistakes – there is nothing unusual about that,” the appeals court said in its ruling.
“And for Stein, this was indeed an unfortunate misunderstanding.
But it is not one that federal law can fix.” The Atlas handbook was “unequivocal” in outlining the employee’s obligation to advise the company of any reason for being unable to work and that Atlas would terminate any employee who failed to come to work or provide notice for three consecutive workday, the appeals court added.
Atlas said it “terminated Stein for one reason: his failure to report or call in for three consecutive days after his doctor released him for light-duty work,” the appeals court said.
So Stein should have the chance to tell it.” One of the three judges concurred with the decision on the FMLA claims, but dissented from the majority opinion on the ERISA claims and argued that the district court’s dismissal should have been affirmed in its entirety.
The judge argued that Mr. Stein did not produce evidence from which a juror could reasonably find that the supervisor who fired him knew or believed that Jordan Stein’s specific medical costs were detrimental to Atlas or that such perception motivated Mr. Stein’s firing.

Physician’s estate agrees to pay $625,000 false claims settlement

Physician’s estate agrees to pay $625,000 false claims settlement

The estate of a deceased physician in Scranton, Pennsylvania, has agreed to pay $625,000 to settle False Claims Act allegations saying he filed improper claims for treating injured U.S.
Postal Service workers.
Dr. Leroy J. Pelicci owned the Pelicci Pain Relief Center in Scranton until his death in March 2014, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg said Thursday in a statement.
Investigators from the U.S. attorney’s office alleged that Dr. Pelicci submitted numerous improper claims for payment after treating the postal workers to the Department of Labor Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, according to the statement.
The claims were submitted under the Federal Employees Compensation Act and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program for trigger point injections, which were “upcoded to receive a higher reimbursement amount than permitted” between 2003 and 2014, according to the statement.
The settlement reflects the amount of fraudulent claims plus the costs of the investigation, according to the statement.
“The U.S.
Postal Service pays about $3 billion per year in workers compensation costs,” said United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General Special Agent Kenneth G. Cleevely in the statement.
“USPS OIG special agents, along with our law enforcement partners, conduct investigations of those individuals who choose to take advantage of the system.”

Evanoff | What do Trump and Sharpton have in common? Populism

Evanoff | What do Trump and Sharpton have in common? Populism

What do Trump and trade have to do with Sharpton, a New York activist who observed the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death?
When King was killed in April 1968, Memphis was an industrial city.
From the Schlitz brewery to the Old Spice deodorant plant to the Firestone tire line, factories paid good wages.
In 1968, nearly 900 plants employed 60,200 workers and paid $123 per week on average.
These days, about 45,000 people throughout the nine counties of metropolitan Memphis are employed in nearly 800 factories.
Assemblers, the most common manufacturing job tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, earn about $600 per week, or 30 percent below the $865 in buying power afforded the typical factory worker on the day MLK died.
There’s a reason activists aim at the fast-food industry.
We’re talking about people living in Memphis.
In the last decade, about 200 small factories closed within Memphis’ city limits, costing 9,000 jobs, while across the Mississippi state line, DeSoto County harbors 37,000 manufacturing jobs, almost twice as many as in the big city of 653,000 population to its north.
No one talked about those old backbone industrial jobs, whose disappearance accelerated the splintering of American society.

Grocers ask judges to keep food stamp payments secret

Grocers ask judges to keep food stamp payments secret

ST. PAUL, Minn. – An industry group that represents grocers asked the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday to block the release of more than a decade’s worth of records showing how much retailers have been paid each year in the food stamp program.
The Food Marketing Institute appealed a district court judge who ruled in 2016 that the annual sales figures that grocers, convenience stores and others get through SNAP are public records.
Releasing the annual sales figures, Villareal said, would allow competitors to capture SNAP sales, thus harming established stores.
“What’s wrong with people knowing the financial status of the government-supported store in their neighborhood?” Beam asked.
“Isn’t that speculative?” asked Judge Raymond Gruender.
Previously, the Argus Leader prevailed when the court ruled that the information was not barred by law from release.
Wednesday, the court considered another argument: Whether the sales data fell under a category that protects trade secrets and sensitive business information from being released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Jon Arneson, a lawyer who has represented the Argus Leader on the seven-year case, told the judges that the FOIA exemption in question was designed to protect information that companies submit to government when they do business with the government.
“This is a record of having done business with the government,” Arneson said.
“It’s a completely different kettle of fish.” Judge Jane Kelly asked Arneson whether SNAP payments could be used in models to help competitors predict overall sales amounts.

Guest editorial: Sabotaging the census — a question of citizenship

Guest editorial: Sabotaging the census — a question of citizenship

In normal times, there might be nothing wrong with the 2020 Census asking whether people are U.S. citizens.
His deportations also are dispatching people to countries they no longer recognize and leaving their American-born children missing one parent or both.
The Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the census guarantees undercounts that will skew federal funding formulas and political redistricting.
Florida did not join the lawsuit.
It bears remembering that many undocumented immigrants are parents of children who are citizens, having been born here.
If the parent is afraid to cooperate with the census, those children won’t be counted, either.
That, in turn, will hurt states like Florida that have higher-than-average percentages of undocumented immigrants.
A trial run last year turned up worrisome accounts of people refusing to cooperate with census takers, despite a law that says they must.
The administration says it needs to know where people are eligible to vote, and in what numbers, so that it can protect minority voting rights.
But the law provides a $100 fine for refusing to answer “any of the questions.” An accurate census is so fundamental to a republican form of government that it’s the only federal program mandated in the Constitution.