Special treatment would affect workers' comp costs

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, May 7, 2010 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

This week the Assembly Appropriations Committee heard AB 1994 (Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley), a bill to expand workers’ compensation presumptions to hospital employees. Although this bill does not directly impact CMTA members it targets private sector employers and sets a precedent for presumptions to expand to other industries.

The bill specifically establishes that 350,000 direct patient care workers at hospitals statewide, including workers at private and non-profit hospitals which contract H1N1, have a back or neck injury or contract Methicillin-resistant Staphylococus aureus (MRSA, staph infection) will be presumed to be injured at work and therefore eligible for workers’ compensation.

Presumptions in the work comp system are currently limited to law enforcement employees such as firefighters and police officers.  Any expansion of presumption exemptions will increase costs dramatically and eliminate the employee’s need to demonstrate that he/she was injured at work.  To date very few work comp claims are denied in hospitals because accidents such as infections by a needle or contact with a highly contagious patient are well documented.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee estimates AB 1994 could raise costs to 400 acute care hospitals – including 22 public facilities - by $250 million to $500 million annually.

Assemblywoman Skinner, the author of the bill, contends that this is a gender equity issue, saying it is unfair for the state to grant "rebuttable presumptions" to the male-dominated public safety profession but not to the female-dominated hospital profession. Nonetheless, the author has not demonstrated a need for a presumption where injuries can easily be tracked back to the workplace.

CMTA has expressed opposition to the bill based on the precedent it sets and the significant cost impact it would have on the work comp system.

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