State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission, John A. Mastropietro, Chairman
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Public Meeting of the Workers’ Compensation Commissioners

March 5, 2010

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June 4, 2010

A meeting of the Workers’ Compensation Commissioners was held on Friday, June 4, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. at the Office of the Chairman, 21 Oak Street, 4th Floor, Hartford, CT.

Agenda Topics

  1. Settlements/Annuities
  2. Guidelines for Cooperation
  3. § 5-142 Benefits
  4. § 31-303
  5. Commissioner’s Examination Procedure
  6. Payor and Medical Provider Guidelines
  7. Language in § 7-433c Proposed Finding and Award
  8. Scar Awards
  9. Calculation of § 31-308a Benefits
  10. NAWCJ - 2010 Judiciary College
  11. Birth Certificates issued by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
  12. The Hartford - Structured Settlements
  13. Scheduling of Hearings
  14. Chairman’s Update
  • Executive Session

Minutes

A regular meeting of the Workers’ Compensation Commissioners was held on Friday, June 4, 2010 at the office of the Chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Commission, Capitol Place, 21 Oak Street, Hartford, Connecticut. The meeting convened at 9:30 a.m. with all Commissioners present except Commissioner Gregg. Also present were Marvin Smernoff, Nancy Bonuomo, Vincent Flynn, Madeleine Lemieux, Connie Rue and Nancy Cowell of the Workers’ Compensation Commission; Attorney Clifton E. Thompson; Gardner Wright and Linda Passanisi of the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Board; and Kia Murrell of CBIA.

  1. Settlements/Annuities
    1. The Commissioner’s role in educating parties regarding annuities in settlements was discussed with the Legal Advisory Panel at their March meeting. Information subsequently received from Attorneys Angelo Sevarino and Diane Duhamel was provided to the Commissioners for their review. The matter was tabled to the next Commissioners’ meeting for further discussion.
  2. Guidelines for Cooperation
    1. At the March Legal Advisory Panel meeting, a concern was expressed that although the “Professional Guide for Attorneys, Physicians and Other Health Care Practitioners: Guidelines for Cooperation” prohibits ex parte communication between respondent’s counsel and the treating physician, it does not specifically mention the employer. The Chairman indicated that as most employers are represented by counsel and it is understood that the intent of the Guidelines would include the employer as well as its counsel, problems have not arisen regarding same. The Commissioners agreed that there was no need for revision to the Guidelines.
  3. § 5-142 Benefits
    1. The Commissioners were provided with an article recently published in Compensation Quarterly by Attorney Helen Kemp of the Retirement and Benefit Services Division, which discusses workers’ compensation benefits and § 5-142(a) disability payments as offsets to state retirement benefits. The State of Connecticut will be more closely monitoring these cases. The Chairman noted an increase in requests for re-characterization of benefits coming before the Commission in an effort by the claimant to minimize such offsets. Such matters will be decided by the Commissioners on a case by case basis. They will need to determine if there was full disclosure to the claimant so that a knowing election was initially made.
  4. § 31-303
    1. The Commissioners reviewed a draft of Memorandum No. 2010-02, which revises the stipulation procedure, providing clarification of § 31-303. Discussion was held. The Chairman indicated that the intent of the revised procedure is to provide guidance to the parties. The Commissioners, who will continue to have discretion in these matters, approved the revised procedure.
  5. Commissioner’s Examination Procedure
    1. The Commissioners reviewed and approved the revised Commissioner’s Examination procedure, which will be implemented in an effort to secure the timely delivery of medical records to the district offices.
  6. Payor and Medical Provider Guidelines
    1. The Commissioners were provided with the “Payor and Medical Provider Guidelines to Improve the Coordination of Medical Services,” effective July 1, 2010. The result of input from every stakeholder in the workers’ compensation system, these guidelines address legislative concerns raised in the last session regarding the timeliness of medical treatment. Educational initiatives by the Commission, the insurance carriers, the Connecticut State Medical Society, etc. will take place in an effort to disseminate this information as quickly and effectively as possible.
  7. Language in § 7-433c Proposed Finding and Award
    1. Commissioner Senich discussed language in a § 7-433c proposed finding and award which stated that the town would pay all medical and pharmaceutical expenses directly related to the claimant’s heart condition which have not been paid by the group health insurance carrier. He expressed concern that this is not total acceptance of the heart and hypertension claim and could have a negative impact on the claimant (e.g., co-pays, limits on medical treatment through the group health plan, etc.) Discussion was held. Commissioner Walker would not allow this language in a finding and award. Commissioner Vargas indicated potential problems if the medical provider is not part of the PPO network. Commissioner Schoolcraft indicated this language might be acceptable in a negotiated stipulation but not in a finding and award as it is contrary to existing Connecticut law. The other Commissioners agreed.
  8. Scarring Awards
    1. Commissioner Senich has noted an increase in challenges to his scarring awards with the parties requesting a formal hearing. The Chairman stated that there must be a clear and unequivocable abuse of a Commissioner’s discretion in order for such awards to be overturned. As it appeared that no other Commissioners were experiencing this, the Chairman requested that Commissioner Senich keep him apprised if this trend continues.
  9. NAWCJ - 2010 Judiciary College
    1. The National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary is offering a Judicial College from August 16-18, 2010 in Orlando with a registration fee of $225 for members. Although no money exists in this year’s budget for training, Commissioner Delaney is in the process of evaluating their program to determine if it would be beneficial to the Commissioners in the future should financial circumstances improve.
  10. Calculation of § 31-308a Benefits
    1. Commissioner Engel discussed the calculation of § 31-308a benefits for high income claimants who are receiving the maximum base compensation rate. Sue Ann Belucci of the Commission’s Education, Safety and Health Services referenced an article published in “Issues” in 1999 concerning this matter. The Chairman indicated that although 308a benefits cannot exceed the maximum compensation rate, the Commissioner does have the discretion to award the entire maximum compensation rate as 308a benefits should the discrepancy between the salary and the compensation rate warrant same.
  11. Birth Certificates issued by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
    1. The Commissioners were provided with the Governor’s memo advising that, in a joint effort with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Homeland Secuirty to address the fraudulent use of Puerto Rico-issued birth certificates, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has enacted a law invalidating or cancelling all birth certificates previously issued by the Commonwealth as of July 1, 2010.
  12. The Hartford - Structured Settlements
    1. The Commissioners were advised of a class-action lawsuit against The Hartford alleging that structured settlements utilized to settle personal injury and workers’ compensation claims were worth 15% less than their promised cost or value as The Hartford was secretly retaining that 15% as fees and profit.
  13. Reassignment of Commissioners
    1. The Commissioners have been notified of their new district assignments which will take effect October 1, 2010. In making the assignments, the Chairman attempted to accommodate individual requests while considering the administrative needs of the agency. He was able to accomplish this for the overwhelming majority of the commissioners.
  14. Scheduling of Hearings
    1. First Time Hearings: The Chairman reported that thanks to the concerted efforts of all to ensure that first time hearings are scheduled within 28 days, the average wait time for a first hearing has been reduced to 24.19 days.
    2. Formal Hearings: The average wait time for formal hearings is now 3 weeks or less for emergencies and 4 to 6 weeks for non-emergencies in most districts. The longer wait time of 10-12 weeks in one district is being addressed. It is the Commission’s goal that the wait time for a formal hearing will never exceed 8 weeks. As complaints have been received from attorneys that formals are actually being scheduled too quickly, the Chairman discussed the importance of the pre-formal hearing to ensure that appropriate scheduling orders are assigned.
  15. Chairman’s Update
    1. The Chairman discussed the following:
    1. September Commissioners’ Meeting Presentation
      1. Brian Mahon, Probate Judge for the District of Meriden, will speak concerning the role of the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner in settlements involving minor children.
    2. Advisory Board
      1. Three new members have been appointed: Donald Shubert of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, Lisa Casey of Reflexite Technology Group and Gregory Nokes of Middlesex Hospital. In addition, Linda Passanisi has been reappointed for a new term.
    3. Projects
      1. 1. Practitioner Fee Schedule
      1. The next update to the fee schedule will be released on July 15, 2010.
      1. 2. Commissioner’s Practice Book
      1. The first draft of the Commissioner’s Practice Book will be provided to Committee members at their meeting to be held immediately following the Commissioners’ meeting.
      1. 3. E-filing Committee
      1. Commissioner Barton reported that the committee has met to explore the feasibility of implementing an e-file system for the Workers’ Compensation Commission similar to that utilized by Judiciary. Still in its early stages, the Commissioners will be kept apprised as this project progresses.
    4. Judiciary Department Review
      1. The Chairman referred to H.B. No. 5539 concerning Judiciary branch powers and procedures, indicating that he is considering the establishment of a committee to review same with an eye toward its possible application to the operations of the Commission. This matter will be further discussed at the next Commissioners’ meeting.
    5. MIRMA
      1. In April, it had come to the attention of the Chairman by members of the medical community that MIRMA, an entity created in 2002 to serve a number of small towns, was not remitting payment for medical treatment rendered to injured workers. The Chairman discussed the financial difficulties and events leading to MIRMA’s announcement that as of July 1, 2010 it would no longer be offering a workers’ compensation policy to its members under the pooling section of the Connecticut General Statutes.
    6. Imperial Casualty and Indemnity Co.
      1. The Commission has been notified of the insolvency of Imperial Casualty and Indemnity Company. It is expected that the Connecticut Insurance Guaranty Association will assume responsibility for paying their claims.
    7. George Martinez
      1. It was noted that a Mr. Martinez, who is not an attorney, has attended hearings and negotiated stipulations on behalf of a number of claimants in the Sixth District. The Chairman indicated that he has requested that this individual present documentation indicating that the claimant has retained his services. He has not heard from him.
    8. Legislative Update
      1. The Chairman discussed legislation of interest to the Commission:
      1. 1. S.B. No. 61 was not enacted.
      1. 2. P.A. 10-179 (the budget adjustment bill) swept $4 million from the Workers’ Compensation Administration Fund and reduced its operating budget by a net of $844,713. Funding for Rehabilitation Services was reduced from $2.3 million to $1.04 million.
      1. 3. P.A. 10-12 implements the recommendations of the Joint Enforcement Commission on Employee Misclassification, increasing civil penalties to $300 per day of violation and extending criminal penalties.
      1. 4. P.A. 10-37 provides that firefighters, police officers, and volunteer ambulance service members are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for certain specific diseases if they arise out of and in the course of employment.
    9. Middletown Office and Staffing Update
      1. The Middletown office will remain open and will be moving to a new location. The Commission received permission to fill vacancies for a District Administrator and paralegal in New Britain, and a hearing reporter and two clericals in Middletown.
    10. Connecticut Bar Association Annual Meeting - June 14th
      1. The Chairman will be addressing the Workers’ Compensation Section at the annual meeting of the Connecticut Bar Association on June 14th and would welcome any thoughts or suggestions from the commissioners.
    11. Commissioner Doyle
      1. The Chairman paid tribute to Commissioner Doyle, who will be retiring at the end of his term on July 10th, and wished him the best.
    12. Commissioner Thompson
      1. The Chairman welcomed our newest commissioner, Clifton Thompson, whose term officially begins on July 11th.

There being no further business, Commissioner Mlynarczyk made a motion to adjourn. Commissioner Vargas seconded the motion, which passed unanimously. The meeting was adjourned at 11:53 a.m.

Workers’ Compensation Commission

Page last revised: September 6, 2011

Page URL: http://wcc.state.ct.us/public-meetings/wc-commissioners/2010/06-04-2010.htm

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State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission, John A. Mastropietro, Chairman
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