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Worker’s Comp goes before the Sunset Commission

The worker’s comp battle has moved to the Sunset Advisory Committee, with testimony being given about how the Division of Workers’ Compensation does its business. Elise Hu continues her reporting on the war of words between several former employees of that division and their boss – see a letter one of them wrote in response to Commissioner Rod Bordelon’s counter-accusations. The Texas Association of Business is weighing in as well. The first day of hearings set the stage for what is to come.

Dr. Ken Ford, who served for six years as Assistant Medical Advisor at the Division, is one of six employees who have exited their positions since January, alleging fraud probes have been buried by their boss, Commissioner Rod Bordelon. Public scrutiny of the Division — following a May 12 Texas Tribune story — began in earnest Tuesday night, as members of the Sunset Advisory Commission questioned Bordelon and former workers’ comp investigators about cases against doctors accused of overtreating or overbilling patients during the last half decade. The commission’s recommendations, which won’t be voted on for several months, are typically used to guide changes during the legislative session.

More hearings are planned for this summer as lawmakers scrutinize the roiling controversy, which includes allegations that Bordelon may have bent to political pressure in spiking at least one case in January and closed the books on eight others that had already moved into the enforcement stage.

“The [Division’s] Office of Medical Advisor has discovered tens of millions of dollars in unnecessary medical care, and it’s all been swept under the rug,” Ford told the commission.

Under questioning from lawmakers, Bordelon defended his decision to dismiss the nine cases, blaming his former employees — including Ford — for tainting the selection of the doctors for review. He said those employees “targeted” the physicians selectively, creating a potential roadblock to prosecuting them. “The defendants bring up as a defense that they have been targeted,” Bordelon told the panel.

Ford, in his testimony, called Bordelon’s assertions “a lie,” saying that the doctors were selected based on complaints from their patients. The doctors enjoy ample safeguards, he said. “Where it seems to bog down is, once they go to enforcement, they just seem to disappear,” said Ford.

I daresay this will all be a lot more exciting than what you’d normally expect given the subject matter. Hearings will continue in June.

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