Senate Bill 923 (De Leon) is supposed to assist injured workers by increasing access to care. More likely, if it gets signed into law, it'll protect them out of much of the care they currently get.
As if Utilization Review by doctors without licensure in California weren't bad enough, we now have another opportunity to stick it to injured workers by making them subject to the Medicare RBRVS fee schedule. This schedule was tried in Hawaii and in Texas. Both states lost the participation of so many specialists that both states had to increase the conversion factor to keep their specialists in the system. With this dismal record well known in healthcare circles, it remains a wonder that the good Senator De Leon wants to try it out again with injured workers in California as the latest guinea pigs.
The current method of reimbursement to physicians who treat injured workers in California follows the Office Medical Fee Schedule (OMFS) which currently pays doctors some of the lowest reimbursement rates in the USA. If that's so, then how could the RBRVS be worse? The answer is that the Medicare RBRVS is geared to the elderly and provides largely geriatric care whereas the OMFS is geared to injured workers so they can return to work. The RBRVS is supposed to provide care although at the present time even that is in danger because of Section 10320 of the Affordable Care Act and the directive to establish an unelected Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) whose primary purpose is to cut costs to Medicare. Installing the Medicare RBRVS system into workers comp and replacing the OMFS with it only shows that the researchers for SB 923 didn't do enough homework.
If the RBRVS is inserted into the system, we can count on many specialists including surgeons to withdraw from workers comp and industrial medicine. When the injured workers discover as a community that they've been shortchanged -- such discoveries take a few years -- the politicians who put the screws to them will have left office and gone to greener pastures, e.g., some will be working for insurance companies. The legacy they leave if SB 923 gets signed into law will be one of deprivation and denial of care.
Our advice: since SB 923 is expected to be heard in the Assembly Insurance Committee on June 23rd, there's still time to tell 'em what you think by faxing the committee at 916-319-2086 and its Chair, Assemblyman Jose Solorio, 916-319-2169.
Aside from Texas and Hawaii, the RBRVS has been tried in other states, e.g., Florida, Massachusetts, and Maryland, all without success. In this report we've named five states in which the RBRVS failed. The RBRVS should not be foisted upon our injured workers in California. SB 923 (De Leon) desrves to be soundly defeated, badly enough so that it won't come back for a long time.