MINISCULE AMENDMENTS TO UNBALANCED WORKERS REFORM DRAFT IRRITATE BIG BUSINESS AND ITS BIGGEST LABOR ALLY
An amended version to reform California's workers comp system has managed to irritate the Big Business proponents of the bill and the California Labor Federation at the same time. Here's how: the proposed amendments leave matters regarding utilization review, independent medical review, medical provider networks, and lowered fee schedules for specialists nearly unscathed. The proposed new amendments make small adjustments for age and would now allow workers to factor age into permanent disability awards. Treatment options would be slightly increased because psychological claims would be considered and independent medical review decisions might in a few instances be able to be overturned. These miniscule changes are enough to send Big Business into a dither and to expose the involvement of the California Labor Federation in the now scorned, but not necessarily rejected, original super-unfair draft.
In fact, WorkCompCentral reported on 8/24/12 that the California Coalition on Workers Comp and the State Compensation Insurance Fund still support the original super-unfair version of the bill. Mirabile dictu (miracle to say), the Department of Industrial Relations was also reported to have endorsed the original super-unfair draft. Doctors' groups are divided between a position and no-position, e.g., the California Society of Industrial Medicine and Surgery (CSIMS) issued a powerful protest ("Oppose the Last Minute Backroom Deal on Workers' Compensation").
Efforts to get clear position statements one way or the other from other stakeholders such as the California Medical Association (CMA), the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD), and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) have so far not been productive. WorkCompCentral stated in its 8/24/12 statement that "Labor unions have not publicly expressed a position on the bill, but Angie Wie, legislative director for the California Labor Federation, was a key negotiator."
Meanwhile, LatinoComp, unafraid and stalwart, has issued its own statement in opposition to the current omnibus workers comp draft: LatinoComp points out that the current draft indicates how "all injury claims by state employees will be removed from the workers compensation system." Our question is why would labor unions that represent state workers allow this travesty to occur unopposed?
Mark Priven, a public member of the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau's Governing Committee, called these early assertions "sparse data or anecdotal information." The current draft is co-authored by Kevin de Leon which augurs ill for injured workers who need specialized care (compare SB 923 from 2011) and for the specialists trained to provide it. The other co-author is Jose Solorio. The current bill is numbered SB 863 and does not correct a myriad of inequities from the original draft. This bill has earned the right to be withdrawn and submitted for a special session after the regular legislative session ends.
It appears that the Insurance Journal agrees. The IJ headline for 8/27/12 is "Workers' Comp Reform Bill Increases Costs $300M."