Weekly Compliance Digest – Black Lung Benefits Act
Black Lung Benefits Act: Disclosure of Medical Information and Payment of Benefits
What is it?
Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs issued a final rule to strengthen safeguards for the health of coal workers. The rule makes revisions to the regulations implementing the Black Lung Benefits Act that will give miners greater access to their health information, improve the accuracy of claims decisions, and require coal mine companies to pay all disability or survivor’s benefits due in a claim before modification can challenge the award.
The Black Lung Benefits Act provides compensation to coal miners who are totally disabled by pneumoconiosis (black lung disease) arising out of coal mine employment, and to survivors of coal miners whose deaths are attributable to the disease. The Act also provides eligible miners with medical coverage for the treatment of lung diseases related to pneumoconiosis.
Who is affected?
The final rule affects the mining industry, specifically companies involved in coal mining.
What are the requirements?
- Requires all parties to exchange any medical information about the miner that they develop in connection with a claim, even if the party does not intend to submit the information into evidence, and allows for sanctions for failure to comply.
- Clarifies coal mine operators’ obligation to pay effective benefits awards during post-award modification proceedings.
- Clarifies that a physician’s supplemental report is a continuation of the physician’s earlier report for purposes of the evidence-limiting rules.
- Allows the U.S. Department of Labor to fully participate in claims adjudications after the liable coal mine operator stops participating because of adverse financial developments, such as bankruptcy or insolvency.
What is next?
The final rule was published in the Federal Register on April 26, 2016 and it will be effective on May 26, 2016.
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