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NEW LAW PROTECTS CREDIT RATINGS OF INJURED WORKERS Stopping Harassment by Collection Agencies for Work-Related Medical Bills
Last month, Governor Murphy signed bipartisan legislation that seeks to protect the credit scores of injured workers. The new law, which amends Section 15 of the Workers’ Compensation Act, protects those who are hurt at work from damaging their credit if work- related medical bills are not promptly paid by an insurance carrier. Employees who are injured at work are entitled to receive 100% coverage of their medical bills, with no deductible or co-payments. Seems like a straightforward benefit, right? In practice, insurance coverage for medical bills is not so simple. First, a workers’ compensation carrier is only responsible for paying 100% of the “authorized”medical treatment. If the patient receives treatment with an unauthorized physician, the workers’ compensation carrier will not pay that medical bill. In addition, even physicians who are authorized by the insurance carrier sometimes dispute the level of reimbursement they receive on a particular medical bill. New Jersey law has long provided that physicians cannot “balance bill” injured workers for treatment following a work accident. Physicians may bring a direct claim against the insurance carrier in the Division of Workers’ Compensation seeking payment of their medical bills or a higher reimbursement rate. If a physician or hospital sues a patient in Superior Court seeking collection of an arguably work-related medical bill, the patient’s attorney may transfer that claim to the Division of Workers’ Compensation. However, medical providers were not previously forbidden from sending the bill to collections and reporting it to the credit agencies.
As a result, employees injured at work could be subjected to harassing phone calls from collection agencies and may be shocked to discover that their credit was harmed because of unpaid hospital bills that should have been covered through workers’ compensation. Just one negative report from a debt collector can cause your credit rating to plummet 50–100 points. You may not notice any harm to your credit immediately. However, the damage will be readily apparent the next time you attempt to take out a car loan or a mortgage, causing you to be hit with exorbitant interest rates since you are now considered a “bad risk” by lenders. It is adding insult to injury for an employee to be forced to endure not only lost wages and a disability but also a loss of credit. The New Jersey Council on Safety and Health (COSH), a nonprofit group of workers’ compensation attorneys, of which I am a member, sought a legislative fix for this injustice. Members of COSH drafted the original collections bill and worked with Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R) and Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D), the legislators who sponsored the bill, to help get it passed into law. Lobbyists from both the insurance industry and large medical groups attempted to persuade Dancer to withdraw his support for the bill. My mother and I had the pleasure of meeting Dancer previously in his lovely Monmouth County District. Rather than caving to their demands, Dancer reached out to me, as a representative of COSH, to analyze the objections to the bill. I was so pleased and honored that he would take my opinion as an attorney on the “front lines” into consideration when evaluating the legislation. He listened and agreed that no changes were necessary
to the bill as written, which was ultimately passed by the Senate with few changes and subsequently signed by the governor. Thank you, Assemblyman Dancer! The new law prohibits physicians and hospitals from reporting work-related medical bills to collections until a workers’ compensation judge has ruled on whether the treatment was necessary and related to a work injury or a settlement is reached in the Division of Workers’ Compensation. If a medical provider violates the law and does report the unpaid bill to the credit agencies, the judge may order the provider to retract the reported charges, impose a fine of up to $5000, and take the necessary steps to rehabilitate the credit rating of a claimant damaged by the inappropriate reporting. I’m proud to have played a small part in furthering this important piece of legislation. Employees injured at work in New Jersey may now sleep a bit sounder knowing that their credit ratings will not be damaged by work- related medical bills.
–Lisa Pezzano Mickey
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Meet Conan THE DOG WHO HELPED TAKE DOWN AL-BAGHDADI
In college, arriving late to class might earn you a stern look from your professor, and turning in homework late normally results in a docked grade. For one student, however, these actions resulted in veneration from the academic community and a story that has become legend. George Dantzig, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, arrived late for a graduate statistics class one day in 1939. He saw that his professor, Jerzy Neyman, had written two problems on the board, and guessing they were the homework assignment, he wrote them down to solve later. A few days later, Dantzig delivered his answers to Professor Neyman. He apologized for turning them in late, remarking that they seemed more difficult than usual. When Neyman told him to just throw the answers on his desk, Dantzig reluctantly did so, fearing his homework would be lost forever in the sea of papers already there. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Six weeks later, Neyman went to Dantzig’s house and excitedly asked him to read the introduction he had written on one of Dantzig’s papers. Of course, Dantzig had no idea what he was talking about. Over the course of the conversation, however, he found out that the two difficult problems he had thought were homework were actually examples of famous unsolved statistical proofs — and Dantzig had solved them! On Oct. 28 last year, President Donald Trump tweeted a photo that quickly went viral. It showed an adorable snapshot of a bright-eyed Belgian Malinois, tongue lolling, still wearing its camo military vest. In the caption, President Trump explained that the pup, Conan, was a national hero who was instrumental in taking down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. With four years in special operations forces and roughly 50 missions under his collar, Conan was selected to be part of the team that pursued al-Baghdadi through a network of underground tunnels in northwest Syria, where the terrorist ultimately died. It’s unclear whether Conan was there to track al-Baghdadi or to spot improvised explosive devices that may have been planted on the route, but either way, he performed well. According to NBC News, Conan was injured by some live electrical cables during the mission, but he recovered quickly and was back on duty within the week. Meanwhile, President Trump invited the brave pup to the White House and tweeted out a doctored photo that showed him awarding Conan a Medal of Honor. President Trump captioned the photo “AMERICAN HERO!” and he’s not alone in his appreciation for the hardworking dogs that have been helping our military since WorldWar II.
“To me, they’re the first line of defense,” United States War Dogs Association President Ron Aiello told Vox after the news about Conan came out. “They’re such a great asset to our military today.” Military dogs are put up for adoption after 6–8 years in the service, which means a lucky civilian could take Conan in as early as 2022! Meanwhile, dozens of other smart canine heroes are looking for homes. To learn more about military and other working dog adoptions, visit MissionK9Rescue.org.
Solving the Unsolvable THE BEST CONSEQUENCE EVER FOR ARRIVING LATE TO CLASS
Neyman published the first of the two proofs soon after. Then, a year later when Dantzig was struggling to decide on his doctoral thesis topic, his professor just shrugged and told him to wrap the two problems in a binder. Neyman said he would accept them as his thesis. Dantzig’s story has been retold in various versions over the years often as an illustration of what a person is capable of when they think positively. After all, Dantzig may not have solved these proofs if he believed they were “unsolvable!” However, even though some versions might lean more toward urban legend, it’s still an impressive story of the best consequence a student ever received for arriving to class and turning in homework late.
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TAKE A BREAK
FROM ZERO TO 300 Meet the Women Who Pioneered Motor Sports
While Danica Patrick and Courtney Force are well known as modern faces in motor sports, they’re far from the first women to cross the finish line. Since the early 1900s, women have been a constant fixture of automotive racing, including the following three who each left their marks on the sport.
SHIRLEY MULDOWNEY Shirley Muldowney is professionally known in the drag racing community as “The First Lady of Drag Racing.” In 1973, she was the first woman to earn a Top Fuel license from the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and, despite backlash from competitors, went on to win the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series an unprecedented
three times. Twentieth Century Fox documented her trials and accomplishments in the 1983 biopic
“Heart Like a Wheel.”Muldowney famously loathed her own characterization but still lauded the film as required viewing for anyone interested in the sport of drag racing. JANET GUTHRIE Janet Guthrie had her sights set on the stars from day one. A skilled aerospace engineer, she began her racing career in 1963. After taking home two class wins in the famed 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race, Guthrie became a well-known figure among racing gurus. In 1976, she became the first woman to compete in the NASCAR Cup Series when she finished 15th in the Coca-Cola 600, then called theWorld 600. To date, Guthrie’s storied career has landed her in the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and the Automotive Hall of Fame. DOROTHY LEVITT Dorothy Levitt is known for her driving skills on both land and water, setting the first water speed record and an early women’s world land speed record. Her motor racing career started slow in 1904 due to illness and various car troubles, but Levitt eventually went on to garner a reputation for her speed and earn the nickname “The Fastest Girl on Earth.”When she wasn’t racing, she spent her time writing. In her book “The Woman and the Car,” Levitt recommended that women carry a small mirror with them for driving in traffic, effectively inventing the rearview mirror five years before it went into production. If you want to learn more about these women and others in motor racing, pick up Todd McCarthy’s book “Fast Women: The Legendary Ladies of Racing.”
EASY SHRIMP SCAMPI
Make date night simple with this easy shrimp scampi recipe.
4 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp oregano
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 oz cooked linguine
1/4 cup parsley
1. In a skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp of butter with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. 2. Add shrimp and oregano, stirring frequently until shrimp is pink. Remove shrimp from skillet. 3. Add wine and lemon juice to skillet and bring the mixture to a boil. 4. Stir in remaining butter and olive oil and cook until butter is melted. 5. Add cooked shrimp to skillet and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. 6. In a serving bowl, top cooked linguine with shrimp mixture. Garnish with parsley and serve. Inspired by The Blond Cook
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INSIDE THIS ISSUE
New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Bill Becomes Law
Meet the Dog Who Helped Take Down al-Baghdadi The World’s Hardest Homework Assignment
Easy Shrimp Scampi Fearless Women Who Pioneered Motor Sports
A Slippery Crime
STEALING MISS HELEN ‘OCEAN’S 3’ ATTEMPT A HIGH-STAKES HEIST
On a hot summer day in late July 2018, three people entered Miss Helen’s home, forcibly removed her, put her in a stroller, and ran toward their getaway vehicle. This might sound like a typical kidnapping story, but Miss Helen is no ordinary person. She is a 16-inch horn shark living at the San Antonio Aquarium. Fortunately, their fishy behavior didn’t go unnoticed, and someone alerted the aquarium staff. One perpetrator drove away with Miss Helen in tow, but the other two were stopped by aquarium staff, later confessing to their involvement. Thanks to some observant witnesses and aquarium surveillance, police were able to identify the third thief and obtain a warrant to search his house. As it turned out, he had an extensive aquarium in his home and possibly hoped to add Miss Helen to his collection. After being identified, Miss Helen was returned home safely.
The aquarium staff was grateful to have Miss Helen back unharmed, despite her ordeal. “She’s a tough little horn shark, I’ll tell you that,” affirmed Jamie Shank, the assistant husbandry director at the aquarium. NO MINOR CRIME While many animal lovers might disagree, animals are considered personal property, so stealing them is a crime of theft, not kidnapping. The penalties for stealing animals vary depending on each state’s laws, and some states have specific laws regarding animal theft. In Texas, larceny law designates the theft of property valued between $1,500–$20,000 as a felony. In the case of Miss Helen, who’s valued by the aquarium at $2,000, the thieves committed a felony. Also, transporting certain animals requires special permits, which led to additional charges against the three thieves.
The Animal Welfare Act, which was adopted in 1966, is the only federal law that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers. Interestingly, it only applies to warm-blooded animals, so if Miss Helen had needed further protection, she would be left out in the cold.
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