Gino DiCaro

Workers’ comp issues in the Senate

By Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications

Capitol Update, April 25, 2008 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Senate Labor and Industrial Relations passed along two bills that would weaken the Workers’ Compensation reforms established in 2004.  SB 1338 (Carole Migden, D-San Francisco) would eliminate the sunset on a provision that currently allows for employees to pre-designate their physicians for work injuries and SB 1717 (Don Perata) would arbitrarily doubles the permanent disability (PD) benefits.

The pre-designation of physicians clause is set to sunset on December 31 of 2009; however, the proponents of the bill believe that there is no longer a need for the sunset and that this provision should be implemented permanently.  Opponents, CMTA among them, point to when the sunset was first put in place.  The Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) was directed to evaluate the use of this provision and its overall impact to the system.  DWC has yet to conduct this evaluation.  Committee consultants analyzing SB 1338 say that DWC lacks the resources to start the evaluation.

In the past, employers in general have not objected to employees pre-designating their primary treating physician.  However, employers are concerned with the ability for a pre-designated physician to make a referral outside of the employer’s Medical Provider Network (MPN) – even if the MPN has appropriate specialists available.  This means that any referrals for physical therapy, chiropractic care, diagnostic testing, and more could be done outside of the MPN, side-stepping cost controls.  
At the hearing, CMTA argued that further study was needed before the Legislature eliminates the sunset; nevertheless, the bill passed 3-1.  

The other workers’ compensation bill, SB 1717, regarding permanent disability, also passed the committee along party lines even though DWC is currently evaluating all relevant data and holding meetings with stakeholders.  The bill would automatically create a 50 percent increase in PD benefits across the board. In addition, amendments to the bill were taken to reinstate the 15 percent increase to PD benefits if an employer fails to provide an employee with an offer to return to work for at least 12 months.

Both of these bills will increase the cost of Workers’ Compensation and weaken the reforms.  We strongly urge CMTA members to express their opposition to SB 1338 and SB 1717.

*Cynthia Leon in KABC News story on work comp hearing

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