Looking at disaster recovery within workers’ compensation is something Lisa Anne and her team have been doing extensively lately. They have used the effects of Hurricane Harvey on the state of Texas as an example/benchmark.
Although the hurricane only lasted a total of six days, it still brought about massive amounts of damage, especially due to the extreme rainfall. As a result, a total of 122,300 people required rescue from their homes and workplaces. The governor of Texas proactively responded by issuing a disaster proclamation for 30 counties while Harvey was still classified as a tropical storm. The proclamation was broad in nature, granting the various government departments within the state the ability to respond in a variety of ways.
Impacts on Worker's Compensation Associated with Responding to the Natural Disaster
After the disaster, a directive was given by the state's commissioner, which was then carried out by the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI). The directive required carriers to continue benefit delivery in counties affected by the hurricane. However, densely populated cities such as Houston contained a large number of workers who were injured prior to Hurricane Harvey and were trying to continue their benefits before the disaster occurred, which presents a challenge. The directive waived penalties and restrictions for affected claimants that requested emergency and non-emergency care in non-network facilities or with non-network providers, as well.
The directive also provided extended deadlines for medical examinations. Texas is a highly regulated state with several specified time frames. Due to the hurricane, it was understood that some time frames couldn't be met for several reasons, such as a provider's office no longer existing and/or a claimant being displaced due to their house being destroyed, etc.
To assist individuals in retaining their previous prescriptions along with future pharmaceutical needs, the directive authorized payments to pharmacies for up to a 90-day supply, subject to the remaining number of days permitted by the prescriber. Additionally, the TDI helped extend medical billing deadlines to ensure that claimants continued to receive proper help and to address new issues that may have arisen during the hurricane.
Listen in to hear how some of the above principles could have been applied in California after the two-week devastating Camp Fire disaster hit the state and impacted entire cities.