Workers’ compensation initiatives filed

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Jan. 6, 2006 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Recently filed with the Attorney General’s office for title and summary are three versions of a workers’ compensation initiative entitled, "The Worker Empowerment Act".  While the substance of these initiatives would be devastating to California employers of all sizes, it is unclear at this point if these initiatives will garner enough signatures to reach California voters.

Version one would alter the entire basis of the workers’ compensation system in California by dismantling the current idea of exclusive remedy.  Under version one, an injured worker would have the right to opt out of the workers’ compensation system 90 days after they report their claim and instead choose to pursue civil litigation.  Further, version one would allow medical providers to pursue civil action against employers and insurers if their bills are not paid in a timely manner.  Another portion of this version would allow an employee to move out of a medical provider network 30 days after their claim is filed and choose a doctor of their choice.  That employee-selected doctor would then have a presumption of correctness in any disputes.  Version one would serve to destroy "exclusive remedy" in California, create a new avenue of civil litigation against employers and dismantle Medical Provider Networks.  

Version two mirrors version one in all ways except one.  Version two would exempt from its provisions all employees of state government, cities, counties, school districts, special districts, local and regional agencies and more.  The clear indication is that the cost implications associated with the initiative would be massive, and that the public purse may need to be spared in order to achieve passage.

Version three is substantially different from the first two versions.  This version would reconstruct the process of paying permanent disability by raising the weekly rate paid to an injured worker to achieve a higher aggregate payment of permanent disability.  This version does not include an attack on the concept of "exclusive remedy", but does dismantle the current laws regarding Medical Provider Networks.

The filing of these initiatives foreshadow significant threats in the upcoming legislative session and election year to the reforms accomplished through SB 899 (2004, Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno). 
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