Friday, June 1, 2012

AB 1687 (Fong) cleared the California legislature 47 to 24. This bill takes aim at the so-called "authorization" process that insurance companies use to chew up, spit out, and ultimately deny care to injured workers.  Our previous blogs explain the bill in greater detail. Suffice to say at this point that proponents assert that injured workers who've been denied care by this arcane method which is allowed to use out-of-state doctors who are not licensed to practice medicine in California should be entitled to retain lawyers to review wrongful denials of care (see references, below). Opponents say that the bill carries an incentive to appeal even properly denied treatment requests. This author regards this assertion as an admssion that opponents already know that some denials are improper.

Supporters of the bill include the California Society of Industrial Medicine and Surgery (CSIMS), California Labor Federation (CLF), California Applicants' Attorneys Association (CAAA), and the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD). Pro-insurance interests that oppose the bill include the California Association of Joint Powers Authorities, the California Coalition on Workers' Compensation, and the Association of California Insurance Companies (ACIC).

Previously, this column has criticized AB 1687 on the grounds that it's not strong enough and will still allow non-California licensed doctors to do utilization review for workers injured in California and to overrule treatment decisions by fully licensed doctors who've also completed a state mandated pain management course (the non-licensed out-of-state doctors are exempt from this requirement). All the same, AB 1687 is a step in the right direction and could conceivably deliver a kick into the gnashing teeth of insurance companies whose mantra seems to be "profits before patients."

Other references by this author

"Wrongful utilization review perpetrated by inappropriate use of the ACOEM Guidelines," California Society of Industrial Medicine Bulletin, #4, Fall, 2006.

"How to practice medicine without a license," San Francisco Chronicle, 8/29/08.

"Utilization Review as a gift to insurance companies,", 3/11/12.

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