In February, an immigration enforcement case in El Paso earned the attention of domestic violence advocates across the country. As the El Paso Times reported, an undocumented woman was detained by immigration officers right after she went to the courthouse to get a restraining order against a violent and abusive partner. Domestic violence advocates were horrified, worried that it would potentially deter undocumented people from reporting abuse to law enforcement. “It sends a really strong message to victims and survivors that there is no safe place,” Ruth Glenn, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, told Bustle in February.
The owner of a Houston health clinic pled guilty to insurance fraud after billing for medical services – often provided to injured employees – despite having no licensed medical staff at the clinic. Instead, investigators found that the clinic was using foreign medical students to provide care.
Rosemary Phelan, the owner of Rose’s Houston Healthcare Clinic, entered a guilty plea in Harris County Court and was sentenced to seven years deferred adjudication and ordered to pay $88,000 in restitution.
A joint investigation by the Texas Department of Insurance Division of Workers’ Compensation and Texas Mutual Insurance Company revealed that Phelan’s clinic had no licensed medical providers on staff yet continued to accept patients. She would then file fraudulent workers’ compensation claims to collect from insurers.
According to investigators, the clinic had a licensed doctor on staff at one time. When that doctor left in 2012, Phelan began hiring foreign medical stude
Texas has some of the nation’s most affordable workers’ compensation coverage, according to a 2016 study, which found that the Lone Star State had the 10th lowest rates among all states. The study by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services ranks all 50 states and Washington, D.C., based on premium rates that were in effect January 1, 2016. Texas, with premiums at $1.45 per $100 of payroll, ranked No. 10, four spots higher than the previous study in 2014. “It’s great to see evidence of the progress we’ve made in affordability,” said Texas Commissioner of Workers’ Compensation Ryan Brannan.
Injured workers in Texas have better access to physicians who can treat them more quickly than they did 15 years ago, according to a September 2016 study by the Texas Department of Insurance’s Research and Evaluation Group (REG). The study found 84 percent of injured workers received initial care in seven days or less in 2015, compared to 76 percent in 2000. “That’s significant because improved timeliness means workers have a much better chance of getting back to work, and the cost for their care will be much lower,” said Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Ryan Brannan.
After a successful pilot project, the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation rolled out a statewide program in October 2016 that has helped speed up the resolution of some disputes.
The program splits up related claim issues so that a hearing officer can decide the most far-reaching issue first. This can clear the way for secondary issues to be resolved sooner. In the pilot program, the approach helped speed resolution of many workers’ compensation disputes.
“We’re always looking for ways to stay on the cutting edge of workers’ compensation, and this process is a great example of finding a way to improve efficiency in the system,” said Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Ryan Brannan. “From what we’ve seen in the pilot project and in the statewide roll-out, the two-step approach to deciding some of the most complex issues in a dispute is a good option for system participants in many cases.”
Two-Step Program Introduced for Workers’ Comp
When an injur