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DCBS releases national study on workers' compensation costs - 01/15/21

Jan. 15, 2021

(Salem) – Oregon’s workers’ compensation rates remain among the lowest in the nation as shown by the 2020 edition of the Oregon workers’ compensation rate ranking study. This reflects the state’s success in making workplaces safer and keeping costs under control.

The biennial study, released today by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS), ranks all 50 states and Washington, D.C., based on premium rates that were in effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Oregon had the seventh least expensive rates in 2020, a slight drop from its ranking in a tie for the sixth least expensive state in 2018, the last time the study was done. Oregon workers’ compensation rates are declining further – an average of 5.6 percent – in 2021, marking eight straight years of declining premiums. In fact, average rates have fallen 48 percent during the 2013 to 2021 time period. Workers’ compensation pays injured workers for lost wages and medical care for job-related injuries.

“Oregon continues to demonstrate that it’s possible to maintain low employer costs while providing strong benefits,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said. “We must remain committed to working together to balance worker health, safety, and benefits with employer rates, and to help workers who are injured heal and return to work quickly.”

The study shows New Jersey had the most expensive rates, followed by New York. Meanwhile, the least expensive rates are those of North Dakota. In the west, California’s rates were the fourth most expensive, while Washington’s rates were the 22nd most expensive and Idaho was the 19th most expensive.

Oregon researchers also compared each state’s rates to the national median (that of the 26th ranked state) rate of $1.44 per $100 of payroll. Oregon’s rate of $1.00 is 69 percent of the median.

In order to have a valid comparison between states that have various mixes of industries, the study calculates rates for each state using the same mix of the 50 industries with the highest workers’ compensation claims costs in Oregon.

A summary of the study was posted today; the full report will be published later this year.

Oregon has conducted these studies in even-numbered years since 1986, when Oregon’s rates were among the highest in the nation. The department reports the results to the Oregon Legislature as a performance measure. Oregon’s relatively low rate today underscores the state’s workers’ compensation system reforms and its focus on workplace safety and health. 

Oregon has long taken a comprehensive approach to making workplaces safer, keeping business costs low, and providing strong worker benefits. This approach includes enforcing requirements that employers carry insurance for their workers, keeping medical costs under control, and helping injured workers return to work sooner and minimize the effect on their wages.

“Through collaboration and hard work, Oregon continues to prove we know how to keep workplaces safe and costs down,” said Andrew Stolfi, DCBS director. “DCBS will keep doing its best to hold costs down for businesses and ensure workers are kept safe and receive the benefits they are due.”

Here are some key links for the study and workers’ compensation costs:
• To read a summary of the study, go to https://www.oregon.gov/dcbs/reports/Documents/general/prem-sum/20-2082.pdf.
• Prior years’ summaries and full reports with details of study methods can be found at https://www.oregon.gov/dcbs/reports/protection/Pages/general-wc-system.aspx  
• Information on workers’ compensation costs in Oregon, including a map with these state rate rankings, is at https://www.oregon.gov/dcbs/cost/Pages/index.aspx

Learn about Oregon’s return-to-work programs, workers’ compensation insurance requirements, and more at https://wcd.oregon.gov/Pages/index.aspx

Request a no-cost workplace safety or health consultation, and learn about workplace safety and health requirements and resources at https://osha.oregon.gov/Pages/index.aspx

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The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. Visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov.

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Medicare Advantage open enrollment available until March 31 (Photo) - 01/14/21

(Salem) – Jan. 1 marked the beginning of the 2021 Medicare Advantage open enrollment period for Medicare beneficiaries with an existing Medicare Advantage plan. Beneficiaries who take advantage of this open enrollment period will have coverage that starts the first day of the month after the enrollment action.

Before March 31, beneficiaries who already have a Medicare Advantage plan can:

  • Change to a different Medicare Advantage plan, either with or without drug coverage.
  • Enroll in a stand-alone Part D (prescription drug) plan, which returns the beneficiary to Original Medicare.

“This is a helpful time period for beneficiaries that are not satisfied with the new Medicare Advantage plan they chose for 2021 or for beneficiaries currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, but who missed the annual Dec. 7 deadline to compare and change plans,” said Lisa Emerson, program analyst for the Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) program.

Beneficiaries can make only one change during this enrollment period and cannot change from one stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan to another stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan.

Other enrollment opportunities if someone missed the Dec. 7 deadline:

  • Oregonians have one five-star plan through Kaiser Permanente that will accept enrollments at any time throughout the year.
  • Anyone affected by COVID-19 or Oregon’s wildfires may still have time to enroll in a plan under a four-month special enrollment period, which begins the date affected. There are other guidelines to qualify.
  • Anyone affected by nonrenewing plans (e.g., Moda Med-Advantage) still has time to choose a plan.

Oregon’s SHIBA program is available to help beneficiaries understand their options. To find free, local Medicare counseling help, go to dcbspage.org/SHIBALOCAL or call 800-722-4134 (toll-free) to speak to a state-certified Medicare counselor.

SHIBA counselors can help Oregonians navigate the Medicare.gov Plan Finder tool to enter prescriptions and compare the cost and benefits of individual drug plans, provide enrollment guidance, and answer any other questions related to Medicare benefits. All of these services are available remotely statewide to ensure the safety of both clients and counselors.

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Oregon’s Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) program is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS), Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. Visit dcbs.oregon.gov. Follow DCBS on Twitter: twitter.com/OregonDCBS. Receive consumer help and information on insurance, mortgages, investments, workplace safety, and more.

Attached Media Files: SHIBA logo
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Oregon OSHA ofrece capacitación en línea en español acerca de seguridad en el techado - 01/13/21

(Salem) – Oregon OSHA lanzó un curso gratuito de capacitación en línea en español para ayudar a empleadores y trabajadores a comprender y practicar la seguridad en el techado.

El curso "Protección contra caídas desde los techos" es parte del trabajo continuo de la división para expandir la capacitación en español por medio de computadora y ampliar la audiencia para cursos educacionales.

“Este curso proporciona una base sólida y varias herramientas para fortalecer la protección de caídas desde los techos” dijo Roy Kroker, gerente de consulta y educación pública de Oregon OSHA. “Además, el curso también ayuda a empleadores y trabajadores a abordar estos peligros de caídas removiendo las barreras del idioma”.

El curso incluye conocimientos ofrecidos por los líderes de la industria y cubre un conjunto de varios temas. Esos temas incluyen identificación de peligros, equipos y sistemas de protección contra caídas, acceso seguro y capacitación.

No se puede subestimar la necesidad de abordar los peligros de caídas. De acuerdo a datos federales, cada año en los Estados Unidos, más de 310 trabajadores de la construcción mueren y más de 10,350 resultan gravemente heridos debido a caídas desde alturas. Alrededor del 81 por ciento de las muertes ocurridas en la industria de la construcción son debido a caídas los desde techos.

El curso en español “Protección contra caídas desde los techos” incluye la oportunidad de recibir un certificado de finalización. Visite más cursos de español. Conozca el programa PESO. Obtenga más información sobre los servicios de educación y capacitación de Oregon OSHA.

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Oregon-OSHA es la división del Departamento de Servicios para Consumidores y Negocios que se encarga de hacer cumplir las leyes de salud y seguridad en el lugar de trabajo. Oregon OSHA trabaja para mejorar la salud y seguridad en el lugar de trabajo para todos los trabajadores de Oregon. Para más información visite osha.oregon.gov.

El Departamento de Servicios para Consumidores y Negocios es la agencia reguladora de negocios y de protección al consumidor más grande del estado. Para más información visite: www.dcbs.oregon.gov.

Attached Media Files: DCBS logo , Oregon OSHA logo
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Oregon OSHA offers Spanish-language online training for roofing safety - 01/13/21

(Salem) – Oregon OSHA has launched a free Spanish-language online video training course to help employers and workers address fall hazards and increase safety in the roofing industry.

The course, “Fall Protection for Roofing,” is part of the division’s ongoing work to expand its Spanish-language computer-based training to broaden the audience for its educational offerings.

“This course provides a solid foundation and plenty of tools for strengthening fall protection in roofing,” said Roy Kroker, consultation and public education manager for Oregon OSHA. “But it is more than that. It also helps employers and workers address such fall hazards by removing language barriers.”

The course includes insights from industry leaders and covers a comprehensive set of topics. Those topics include hazard identification, fall protection equipment and systems, safe access, and training.

The need to address fall hazards cannot be overstated. Each year in the U.S., more than 310 construction workers are killed and more than 10,350 are seriously injured by falls from heights, according to federal data. About 81 percent of deaths from roofs occur in the construction industry.

The Spanish-language “Fall Protection for Roofing” course includes the opportunity to receive a certificate of completion. Visit more Spanish-language courses. Learn about the PESO program. Learn about Oregon OSHA’s education and training services.

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Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state’s workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, visit osha.oregon.gov.

The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, go to www.dcbs.oregon.gov.

 

 

Attached Media Files: DCBS logo , Oregon OSHA logo
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Salem fitness center fined $126,749 for continued, willful COVID-19 workplace violation - 01/12/21

(Salem) – Oregon OSHA has fined a Salem fitness center $126,749 for willfully continuing to potentially expose employees to the infectious coronavirus disease despite a public health order to limit the capacity to zero for such establishments in “extreme risk” counties.

The fine – the result of an inspection launched in response to multiple complaints – was issued against Capitol Racquet Sports Inc. for willfully refusing to comply at its Courthouse Club facility on Commercial Street Southeast.

“We understand that this employer is attempting to do a number of things to keep employees safe without shutting down, but that does not allow them to substitute their judgment for that of the public health authorities,” said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood

It is the largest penalty issued to an employer by Oregon OSHA for a violation related to COVID-19. The division cited the violation as “willful” and, at the discretion of the administrator, imposed the maximum penalty allowed.

“It is our expectation that employers follow well-founded health regulations that are directly intended to protect workers from a genuine hazard,” Wood said. “And while we have been able to use engagement and education to resolve most COVID-19 complaints involving employers, we will also continue to bring our enforcement tools to bear as needed.”

The citation is, to date, the fifth one issued against the company for willfully disregarding health protections against COVID-19. In November 2020, Oregon OSHA issued citations against each of the company’s four operating fitness facilities after conducting complaint-based inspections.

Those inspections found the company operating the facilities in defiance of public health measures included in Gov. Kate Brown’s Nov. 17 executive order. That order implemented a temporary two-week freeze to stop the rapid spread of the virus. Capitol Racquet Sports continued operating after the order was effective. It did so after Oregon OSHA’s initial inquiries. And it did so after the division’s posting of Red Warning Notices at the four fitness-related facilities. The total penalty for all four locations was $90,000 for willful and Red Warning Notice violations.

The citation carrying the $126,749 penalty stems from an inspection opened Dec. 9. at only one of those four fitness establishments inspected in November. The inspection found Capitol Racquet Sports continuing to intentionally disregard public health orders and Oregon OSHA notices to close the facility. The willful lack of compliance continues to potentially expose employees and member clients to COVID-19.

In keeping the facility open to member clients, the company is choosing to disregard limitations imposed by the Oregon Health Authority for such an establishment in a county designated as Extreme Risk. County risk levels are part of the state’s public health framework for reducing transmission of the coronavirus disease. Health and safety measures are assigned for each level.

The current citation against Capitol Racquet Sports was issued under Oregon OSHA’s  temporary rule to address COVID-19 risks in the workplace – specifically, the appendices spelling out industry-specific requirements.

Employers have 30 days to appeal citations. Capitol Racquet Sports appealed the four citations issued in November 2020.

In addition to its enforcement activities, Oregon OSHA offers employers and workers a variety of consultation, information, and education resources addressing COVID-19.

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Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state’s workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, visit osha.oregon.gov.

The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, go to www.dcbs.oregon.gov.

 

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TK Keen named administrator of Oregon Division of Financial Regulation - 12/29/20

(Salem) – TK Keen is the new administrator for the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation, which licenses and regulates banks, credit unions, investments, debt resources, and insurance in the state.

Keen has served as acting administrator since August, and succeeds Andrew Stolfi as the division’s administrator. In April, Stolfi was appointed by Gov. Kate Brown to lead the Department of Consumer and Business Services, the state’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency, of which the Division of Financial Regulation is part. Stolfi will continue to serve as Oregon Insurance Commissioner, a role he has had since 2018.

Under Keen’s leadership, the division has responded with agreements and emergency orders to help Oregonians affected by COVID-19 and wildfires.

In response to COVID-19, the division issued grace periods for consumers to pay insurance premiums. This created a sustainable way for insurance customers to keep up with premium payments without falling too far behind during the pandemic. The division also reached agreements with health insurance companies to provide expanded telehealth in response to COVID-19.

In response to the Labor Day wildfires, the division issued an emergency order suspending cancellations and nonrenewals of insurance coverage, creating a grace period for premium payments, and extending deadlines for people in the areas affected by the wildfires. 

“Our work at the Division of Financial Regulation has been vital to Oregonians who were dealing with very difficult situations this year,” said Keen. “I am proud to lead a division that is filled with caring and intelligent people who are dedicated to protecting consumers and working with the state’s insurance and financial services industries to find efficient and logical methods to help Oregonians fulfill their financial goals.”

Keen has been a deputy administrator with the Division of Financial Regulation since 2015. Before joining the division, he practiced law as a sole practitioner in Washington, focusing on employment law cases. During law school at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, he worked for the Oregon Department of Justice, the Hon. Elizabeth L. Perris of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and the Portland State University Office of General Counsel.

Keen has led and participated in several model law workgroups to shape national consumer protection policy with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Conference of State Bank Supervisors, and Money Transmitter Regulators Association.

“TK has taken a lead role in building the division’s legislative agenda, organizing its response to emerging issues and technologies, and driving efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Stolfi. “I am grateful for TK’s guidance of the division this year, and am confident in his ability to continue leading the Division of Financial Regulation.”

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About DCBS: The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, go to www.dcbs.oregon.gov. Follow DCBS on Twitter: twitter.com/OregonDCBS. Receive consumer help and information on insurance, mortgages, investments, workplace safety, and more.

About Oregon DFR: The Division of Financial Regulation is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. Visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov  and http://dfr.oregon.gov/Pages/index.aspx.

Eleven state insurance commissioners provide ACA policy recommendations to President-elect Biden - 12/23/20

Salem – A group of the nation’s state insurance commissioners joined together in a pledge to work with President-elect Joe Biden by providing health policy recommendations to the incoming administration.

The commissioners share President-elect Biden’s vision that no American should have to go without health care coverage. They believe comprehensive and progressive health care is essential to addressing urgent public health priorities, such as the COVID-19 and opioid crises, addressing racial disparities in the health care system, and ensuring enforcement of mental health parity.

A letter sent by the group of commissioners detailed six immediate or critical policy recommendations and six longer-term recommendations for the Biden administration to consider.

Immediate policy recommendations

  • Ensure immediate access to the federal marketplace, Healthcare.gov, through a special enrollment period.  
  • Provide immediate relief from Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidy clawbacks created by COVID-19 uncertainty.
  • Provide clarity on COVID-19 testing coverage requirements, especially in regard to tests that are ordered as part of state-based contact tracing efforts.
  • Partner with states in actively focusing on programs and practices that address the needs of historically marginalized communities.
  • Address problematic elements of the recently proposed Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters (NBPP) for Plan Year 2022.
  • Allow flexibility for states aiming to pursue progressive policy aims by empowering them to apply for ACA innovation waivers beyond reinsurance.

Longer-term policy priorities

  • Reverse policies, such as the weakening of non-discrimination protections and the public charge rule, that undermine the ACA and deny health care coverage to many people.  
  • Encourage both people and small businesses to enroll in ACA programs, and stop encouraging enrollment in insurance plans that do not provide the ACA’s most critical consumer protections.
  • Improve income counting rules to allow consumers greater flexibility.  
  • Extend premium tax credits to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients so that legally present noncitizens have access to health care coverage.
  • Modernize Department of Labor oversight of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to ensure all health insurance coverage is held to similar standards.
  • Consider a national reinsurance program to stabilize health insurance markets and improve affordability of health insurance coverage.

Enacting these policy recommendations will provide immediate relief to many Americans affected by the COVID-19 crisis, provide states with flexibility to strengthen health insurance markets, remove discriminatory barriers to health coverage, protect the coverage needs of Americans with pre-existing conditions, and ensure comprehensive health insurance access is available to all Americans.

The following state insurance commissioners developed these recommendations and are committed to working with the Biden administration on its national health care plan:

Commissioner Ricardo Lara, California

Commissioner Michael Conway, Colorado

Commissioner Trinidad Navarro, Delaware

Commissioner Colin M. Hayashida, Hawaii

Director Anita G. Fox, Michigan

Temporary Commissioner Grace Arnold, Minnesota

Commissioner Andrew R. Stolfi, Oregon

Commissioner Jessica K. Altman, Pennsylvania

Employers must not retaliate against employees who need to quarantine - 12/22/20

(Salem) – The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) is reminding employers that they are not allowed to retaliate against any employees who need to quarantine or isolate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Temporary Rule Addressing COVID-19 Workplace Risks is intended to curb the spread of coronavirus in all workplaces by requiring employers to implement a comprehensive set of risk-reducing measures. The temporary rule took effect Nov. 16, with certain parts phased in, and is expected to remain in effect until May 4, 2021.

“If employees have been told or need to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19, they must be allowed,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “Also, their employer must not penalize them for doing so. If employers violate this rule, it could be costly.”

The potential penalties for a violation of this temporary rule is between $100 and $12,750 for a violation that is not willful and between $8,900 and $124,749 for a willful violation.

There are several important points in the temporary rule about employees and quarantine. Among them are:

  • Whenever the Oregon Health Authority, local public health agency, or medical provider recommends an employee be restricted from work due to quarantine or isolation for COVID-19, such as through identification during contract tracing activities, the affected employee must be directed to isolate at home and away from other nonquarantined people.
  • If an employee must quarantine or isolate for COVID-19, the employer must allow the employee to work at home if suitable work is available and the employee’s condition does not prevent it.
  • Employees who quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 – either due to the temporary rule or because their employer takes extra precautions – must be allowed to return to their previous job duties if they are still available and without any adverse action.
  • Decisions about testing and returning to work after an employee has been in quarantine or isolation must be made according to applicable public health guidance and be consistent with guidance from the employee’s medical provider.

Under ORS 654.062(5), employees are protected from discrimination or retaliation. This includes employees who follow this COVID-19 temporary rule, employees who make a complaint if their employer is not following this rule, and employees who are exercising their rights under the law.

Resources to comply with the rule are available at https://osha.oregon.gov/rules/advisory/infectiousdisease/Pages/default.aspx.

Read the full text of the rule: https://osha.oregon.gov/OSHARules/div1/437-001-0744.pdf

If your employer is requiring you to work during your quarantine or is retaliating against you because you are in quarantine, you can file a complaint with Oregon OSHA at . https://osha.oregon.gov/workers/Pages/index.aspx.   

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Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state’s workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, visit osha.oregon.gov.

The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, go to www.dcbs.oregon.gov.

 

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Data shows strong enrollment in health coverage for 2021 - 12/21/20

(Salem) – Nearly 141,000 Oregonians chose health plans for 2021 through HealthCare.gov, according to initial data from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

“This year has thrown Oregonians a curve ball with the COVID-19 pandemic and devastating wildfires,” said Chiqui Flowers, administrator of the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace. “The Marketplace will continue to support Oregonians by helping them understand their health coverage options, finding affordable and quality coverage for their family, and connecting them to local experts for direct enrollment assistance.”

The preliminary enrollment total is down 3 percent compared to the end of open enrollment for 2020 coverage. A number of factors have influenced enrollment this year, including more Oregonians qualifying for and remaining enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan due to COVID-19, Flowers said.

People who chose coverage during open enrollment, whether through HealthCare.gov or directly from an insurance company, must pay their premium when they receive their January bill in order to make their coverage effective.

Open enrollment ended Dec. 15, which means most people will be able to buy coverage for 2021 only if they have experienced a qualifying life event, like a loss of coverage, moving, or another change to the household. American Indians and Alaska Natives living in Oregon can enroll in coverage anytime throughout the year.

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The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace, a part of state government, helps people get health insurance when they do not have job-based coverage, and do not qualify for the Oregon Health Plan or another program. The Marketplace is the state-level partner to HealthCare.gov, and a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS). For more information, go to OregonHealthCare.gov.

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