Study links later return to work with longer-term opioid prescription

Study links later return to work with longer-term opioid prescription

Longer-term prescribing of opioids more than triples the duration of temporary disability among workers with work-related, nonsurgical, lower-back injuries when compared to claims with no opioid prescribing, according to a study released Thursday by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Workers Compensation Research Institute.
Using data from 28 states, for injuries between 2008 and 2013 where workers had more than seven days of lost work time, the study estimated the effects of opioid prescriptions measured in several ways, including whether workers received multiple prescriptions for opioids and whether workers had opioid prescriptions within the first three months after an injury and three or more filled opioid prescriptions between the 7th and 12th months after an injury.
Researchers culled information on opioid prescriptions from prescription transaction data collected from workers compensation insurers and their medical bill review and pharmacy benefit management vendors, according to the study.
The study also found that local prescribing patterns played a strong role in determining whether injured workers receive opioid prescriptions.
Workers who lived in high-prescription states, per pharmacy data, were more likely to receive opioid prescriptions than workers who lived in low-prescription areas.
“Our results imply that a 10-percentage-point increase in the local rate of longer-term opioid prescribing is associated with a 2.6-percentage-point higher likelihood that an otherwise similar injured worker would receive longer-term opioid prescriptions,” the study states.

Oxnard pair sentenced to 14 months for more than $90K in theft using food stamps

Oxnard pair sentenced to 14 months for more than $90K in theft using food stamps

An Oxnard couple was sentenced Monday to 14 months in Ventura County jail for abusing government food assistance benefits, according to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.
Gerardo Vaca Navarro, 61, and Martha Leticia Navarro, 62, both of Oxnard, pleaded guilty in June 2016 to one count of grand theft and two counts of fraudulently transferring CalFresh and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
They also admitted to trafficking over $50,000 in those benefits.
Between January 2012 and October 2014, the pair illegally redeemed $93,868 in electronic benefit transfer benefits by exchanging them for cash at Chivas Market, located at 3728 Saviers Road.
EBT benefits, such as CalFresh and SNAP, are provided to eligible low-income individuals and families in need of food assistance.
It is against the law for these benefits to be exchanged for cash, cigarettes or alcohol, according to authorities.
The Navarros were arrested during an inter-agency crackdown on store owners who paid cash for government food assistance benefits.
In addition to the 14-month sentence, the two were ordered to serve 34 months of mandatory supervision and pay $75,977 in restitution on top of the $31,200 restitution they had already paid prior to the sentencing.
The couple must also pay 10 percent interest from the date they first started taking the funds, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Howard Wise.
The case was the result of an investigation by the district attorney’s Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General.

Disneyland workers struggle financially, survey finds

Disneyland workers struggle financially, survey finds

Wochit In an unprecedented challenge to Walt Disney Co., a coalition of 11 Disneyland unions is calling on the resort to raise its base wage to $20 an hour after a survey of 5,000 workers found many were hard-pressed to pay for food and medical expenses and 11 percent said they experienced homelessness in the past two years.
Getting there: Disneyland, Amtrak team up to offer discounts Saving money: Disneyland discount tickets: Tips to help you save money According to a 125-page report “Working for the Mouse,” federal census and economic data show the average hourly wage for Disneyland resort workers dropped to $13.36 from $15.80 in inflation-adjusted dollars between 2000 and 2017.
“But for many of the approximately 30,000 people who work there, it is not the happiest place to work.
This includes union and non-union employees and the tips that some workers earn.
“While we recognize that socio-economic challenges exist for many people living in Southern California, we take pride in our employment experience.” Of the 5,000 union members who answered the 50-question survey – a representative sample by age, employment longevity and wages, according to the researchers – “Almost three-quarters (73 percent) say that they do not earn enough money for basic expenses every month,” according to the report.
The report notes that while many assume that most Disneyland jobs are entry-level positions for young workers, in fact 41 percent of the resort’s employees are 30 to 54 years old and 18 percent are over 54.
Among the survey findings: More than one out of 10 – including 13 percent of those with young children – report having been homeless, or not having a place of their own to sleep, in the past two years.
60 percent said that in the past year they ran out of food without the money to buy more.
In the survey, 79 percent said they are “proud of the work I do at the Disneyland Resort,” but only 46 percent said they are “treated with respect on the job.” Scheduling is a particular hardship, according to many Disneyland workers.
More than half who are parents of young children say their schedules at the resort make it difficult to care for their families and children.

Amazon Prime Membership Just Became Cheaper for Millions of People

Amazon Prime Membership Just Became Cheaper for Millions of People

Prime subscriptions normally cost $12.99 per month, or $99 per year, but Amazon just announced it will give a $7 discount on the monthly rate to Medicaid recipients.
Qualified customers would be able to renew their Amazon Prime subscriptions annually at the discounted rate for up to four years, Amazon said.
The new Prime discount is clearly intended as a way for Amazon to expand its shopper base.
Last summer, Amazon began offering a discount rate of $5.99 per month for Prime memberships to customers receiving government assistance.
To get the lower Prime rate, you had to have an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which is given to people who qualify for assistance programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC).
Regardless of the larger retail battles being waged, are cheaper $5.99 Amazon memberships actually a good deal for poor people?
And yes, an Amazon Prime subscription brings with the possibility of saving money in other ways: In addition to lower prices and free shipping often available at Amazon, Prime members could theoretically cut their spending by canceling Netflix, Spotify, or other streaming services and using Amazon’s free options instead.
Perhaps people who spend more money at Amazon after joining Prime are simultaneously spending less at Walmart, supermarkets, toy stores, and such.
A year ago, Walmart began offering free two-day shipping on most orders of $35 or more.
And unlike with Amazon Prime’s “free” shipping—which you pay for, in the form of membership fees—Walmart and Target’s offers are truly free, with no subscription required.

California statute of limitations for temporary disability awards upheld

California statute of limitations for temporary disability awards upheld

Reprints Gloria Gonzalez A California appeals court nullified an award to an injured worker for temporary disability benefits occurring five years after the employee’s injury.
While employed by the county as a deputy sheriff, Kyle Pike suffered an injury to his right shoulder on July 31, 2010, and was granted a 12% permanent disability award in May 2011, according to court documents in County of San Diego v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board and Kyle Pike.
Mr. Pike sought to reopen the petition and receive temporary disability benefits on May 26, 2015, arguing that his shoulder injury had worsened.
The county paid all benefits owed to him for the five years from the date of the injury up to July 31, 2015, but declined to provide additional benefits after that date.
A workers compensation judge issued an order determining that Mr. Pike was entitled to the additional benefits — a decision upheld by a majority of the board, which concluded that the judge was “authorized to award temporary disability indemnity within the five-year period, to continue until the 104-week limitation is exhausted or period of temporary disability ends.” However, the dissenting board panel member concluded that the language of the statute “is not susceptible of an interpretation that permits an award of temporary disability more than five years after July 31, 2010, the date of (Mr. Pike’s) injury.” In its appeal, the county argued against awarding temporary disability payments for periods of disability occurring more than five years after the date of the underlying injury that Mr. Pike suffered while working for the county.
The question at the heart of the appeal is “straightforward,” the Court of Appeal, 4th Appellate District, Division 1 in California said in ruling in favor of the county, concluding that the plain language of the statute indicates that the county’s view was correct.
The court annulled a board order affirming the judge’s order awarding the temporary disability benefits beyond the five-year period.
The appeals court remanded the case to the board with directions to grant the county’s petition for reconsideration.
Attorneys of record for multiple parties involved in the case could not be reached for comment.

Amazon Offers Prime Discount for Medicaid Recipients

Amazon Offers Prime Discount for Medicaid Recipients

The move expands an effort started last year, when Amazon started offering the Prime discount to people with electronic benefit transfer cards, used to distribute aid for food purchases.
The push is a further effort by Amazon to go after shoppers who favor Walmart, which has long been a go-to destination for people on tight budgets.
(Amazon says the discount applies to adult holders of Medicaid cards.)
Many Medicaid participants also receive electronic benefit transfer cards, and Amazon is “very pleased with the response so far” to the discounted Prime membership for those card holders, a company spokeswoman, Julie Law, said.
Its Prime program has been a hit in many households, making shopping on the site a far more practical substitute for going to stores.
Prime members can typically have goods delivered free in two days, with many items available for one-day or same-day shipping.
“They are still getting used to the idea of shopping online,” Ms. Kodali said.
Amazon Cash, for example, allows people to add money to their Amazon accounts by taking cash to CVS pharmacies, GameStops and other retail locations.
Amazon Lockers, installed outside convenience stores and other locations, give people a secure place to pick up and return Amazon packages.
But he added that he was not entirely convinced that low-income shoppers would be willing to pay a membership fee, even a reduced one, to shop at an online store.

Amazon offers low-cost Prime memberships to Medicaid recipients

Amazon offers low-cost Prime memberships to Medicaid recipients

Beginning Wednesday, qualifying recipients of Medicaid will be eligible for a discounted Prime membership of $5.99 per month, as opposed to the normal rate of $10.99 a month.
No annual commitment is required and customers can get the discount for up to four years.
Customers can also sign up for a free 30-day trial of the service.
More: Amazon tests food stamps, another breach of Wal-Mart territory More: Amazon may be looking at creating its own checking accounts More: Why Amazon is sending you pictures of your front porch More: Jeff Bezos’ wealth is now equal to 2.3 million Americans’ It’s part of a concerted effort on the part of the Seattle e-tailing giant to gain more market share among low income consumers and those without access to traditional banking and credit.
It represents a market Amazon can expand in when 70% of online consumers who have incomes above $150,000 a year are already estimated to be Amazon Prime members.
Amazon is clear that it’s making this move for business reasons, not for altruism, but that doesn’t mean it won’t help people, said Avi Greengart, an industry analyst with GlobalData, a market research firm. “The ability to order things online and have them shipped directly to your door within a quick time frame, people in higher earning demographics have long seen this as a convenience that changes the way they shop.
People that this opportunity are targeting are going to get that chance for the first time — and they may actually need it more,” he said.
People without bank accounts, the “unbanked,” made up about 15% of U.S. consumers in 2016, according to research by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
On Monday a report in the Wall Street Journal suggested Amazon was considering a debit-card like program for those without access to credit cards.

California comp dispute resolution could slow amid QME shortage

California comp dispute resolution could slow amid QME shortage

Qualified medical evaluators are qualified physicians certified by the California Division of Workers’ Compensation Medical Unit to examine injured workers to evaluate disability and write medical-legal reports used to determine an injured worker’s eligibility for workers compensation benefits, according to the division.
In California’s workers comp system, the medical-legal process includes a panel, or list of three qualified medical evaluators, issued to an injured worker when a question arises about whether or not an injury is work-related or if there is a medical dispute that has not been resolved by the treating physician’s report, according to the division.
The number of qualified medical evaluators declined 20% between January 2012 and September 2017, according to a recently released California Workers Compensation Institute study.
The study compared data from the list of physicians certified in California as QMEs in 2012 to the certified QME list from September 2017 to analyze changes in the QME population.
“If you look at the average age of the people who do most of the medical legal evaluations, they are a lot of the baby boomers,” said William Zachry, San Francisco-based senior fellow at the Sedgwick Institute.
In California, there has always been a problem with getting good medical legal evaluations in the rural area … that is one of the challenges that has been problematic for as long as there has been comp in California.” Despite the drop, available QMEs are taking on more evaluations, said Mr. Zachry.
“The question becomes quality and timeliness: Are the injured workers having to wait a long time to get an evaluation?” he said.
Other experts say that the QME drop will have a definite effect.
“It doesn’t matter whether they have 1, 2, or 5 offices, less QMEs means longer wait time for appointments and for reports.” The division should be actively recruiting QMEs in the specialties of urology, pulmonary, gastrointestinal and oncology as well as increasing the overall numbers.
“Less friction and more timely evaluations and reports.”

West Virginia Lawmakers Reach Deal to End Teachers’ Strike After 9 Days

West Virginia Lawmakers Reach Deal to End Teachers’ Strike After 9 Days

Jim Justice and Republican leaders tentatively agreed to end the state’s nine-day teachers’ walkout by giving 5 percent raises not just to teachers, but to all state workers.
With striking teachers cheering from the gallery, the House of Delegates subsequently passed the pay raise for teachers, school service personnel and state troopers on a 99-0 vote.
The Senate followed, voting 34-0.
The six-member conference committee then agreed to the 5 percent figure Tuesday, and for more than just teachers.
“The winners in this are the students of West Virginia and the educators across West Virginia who finally see a true investment in education,” West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said.
Because seven days ago we were told the same thing, and we’re still here.” A show of support by thousands of teachers and supporters on Monday didn’t sway lawmakers in time to avoid a ninth day of cancelled classes for the school system’s 277,000 students and 35,000 employees.
Ferns said late Monday after a House-Senate conference committee worked for a compromise that Senate Republicans were concerned more about how the raise is paid for than the exact amount.
Blair suggested at one point that schools reopen while the Legislature tries to work on the bills, prompting groans from the audience.
Despite the long layoff, Stringer supports the teachers.
“They deserve to be able to have insurance.” The teacher walkout over pay and benefits began on Feb. 22 after the governor signed a 2 percent pay raise for next year.

Living on the edge; helping the homeless through a tough Montana winter

Living on the edge; helping the homeless through a tough Montana winter

On a cold Thursday morning, the St. Vincent de Paul van sets out to deliver food and warm clothing to the homeless’ camps scattered across the city.
“Anything that looks like it could be a camp,” Toyne said.
Dave knows the most likely camps by heart.
“He told me about the van that was down in the parking lot, and he said he had food, hot coffee, clothes – and if I needed anything to come on down and check it out,” Dave said of his first contact with St. Vincent de Paul’s outreach program.
“Some of them will only stay in town a couple of days before they move on.
“A lot of the time they don’t have proper identification and we can’t get a name,” Toyne said of his efforts to document Great Fall’s homeless population.
“A lot of these people will self-select themselves out of something,” Toyne said.
It’s kind of a catch-22 because you can’t help the people if they don’t know that there’s help available.” Under the 6th Street trestle, there’s little to see, but it’s clear that someone’s been living there.
It’s definitely life and death.” St. Vincent de Paul’s resale store on Central Ave isn’t equipped to shelter large numbers of people.
“That was one of my friend’s biggest issues,” Dave said of another homeless man in Great Falls.