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Don’t Miss the Crossover Issues

Crossover issues are not strictly workers compensation issues– which is why they are sometimes overlooked. That omission can cost a party money or even lead to a professional malpractice suit. Third Party Claims
Product liability, medical malpractice, and negligent roadway design are examples of third party claims usually unaffected by the exclusive remedy rule. Collisions may give rise to the most common third party claim.

SSDI
Whether and when to apply for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) are not simple decisions. Federal law is written to make sure a disabled person does not earn more when not working than the person did on the job. The “80% rule” limits the combined total of SSDI and indemnity payments to an injured worker. This rule principally affects lower wage earners.

Medicare/Medi-Cal
Virtually all workers compensation professionals recognize the need for a Medicare Set-Aside in appropriate cases. Correct self-administration remains a challenge. Additionally, practitioners should be aware that two forms of Medi-Cal currently exist: traditional and expanded. Savvy negotiators can often use these programs to create a safety net to cover the injured worker’s medical expenses as part of a Compromise & Release completely closing the claim. C&Rs drafted without considering Medi-Cal issues could imperil medical care for the injured worker and the injured worker’s entire family.

Immigration
Undocumented injured workers are eligible for workers compensation benefits in California. Some undocumented workers have been in their jobs for decades. They remain under the legal radar until a workplace injury occurs. At that point, a false or stolen identity may come to light, creating issues for the injured worker and the employer. The Patriot Act’s provisions about identification required to open a bank account or to send money out of the country can also interfere with an injured worker’s decision to choose a Compromise & Release.

Tax
The tax code provides that money received on account of a physical injury is not taxable. Usually all payments made on a workers compensation claim arise from a physical injury. However, a number of circumstances could trigger taxation. Also, once an injured worker receives a buy-out, earnings on invested or banked sums are taxable.

Get Help
Workers compensation professionals should recognize crossover issues, and counsel should alert clients when these issues appear. The next step could be to bring in an expert in that area, provide one or more referrals, or advise clients to seek professional advice on their own.

Cannibal Negotiation

Cannibal negotiation refers to a deal where parties figure out how to get money from an entity not at the table.

The term originates from an arrangement where OldCo paid NewCo to keep NewCo’s cheaper, competing product off the market. NewCo is paid for not selling anything. The buyers who need that product have to pay OldCo’s high price. The buyers are being cannibalized.

Honest disagreement can thwart parties’ good intentions to reach a workers compensation settlement. Cannibal negotiations can ethically resolve disputes over the value of future medical benefits.

The first place a true cannibal negotiator should turn is Medi-Cal. Medi-Cal can fill the gap between parties’ valuations and provide a safety net to pay for the injured worker’s health care at no cost to any party. A special needs trust or structured settlement may be needed to keep an applicant eligible for traditional Medi-Cal. Under expanded Medi-Cal, the applicant can receive a settlement of any size without losing eligibility so long as Modified Adjusted Gross Income is under the limit. Caution: home health care and non-emergency medical transportation are not included in expanded Medi-Cal. 

Medicare is the next source a cannibal should think of for a funding entity not at the negotiating table. Medicare is different from Medi-Cal in that the injured worker had to contribute the required number of quarters to achieve eligibility. Also, a Medicare Set-Aside must be depleted before additional funds can be tapped to pay for a claim-related Medicare-eligible expense.

Lastly, the parties may be able to use part of the settlement to fund health insurance premiums for the injured worker. A health insurance agent can provide a quote for Affordable Care Act coverage regardless of the injured worker’s pre-existing condition. A (cannibalized) subsidy may indeed keep the premium cost affordable.

Cannibal negotiators can “prey” on more than one source. Some applicants are “Medi-Medi”, enrolled in both Medicare and Medi-Cal. MSAs should not be tapped until the applicant is eligible for Medicare; for the period up to 30 months before then, Affordable Care Act insurance can provide coverage.