Thursday, May 9, 2019

Reneging on AB 1107 (Chu)

In its original form AB 1107 was supposed to give relief to injured workers who were being wrongly denied access to treatment. It was supposed to ease the administrative burden on treating physicians whose time for patient care was being diluted by unreasonable requests for documentation to entertain Utilization Review (UR). The main thrust of AB 1107 was to facilitate treatment by primary treating physicians by exempting them from UR under specific circumstances. This plank has now been removed and replaced by language that may actually increase legal costs. 

As a result of the fear that access to treatment might become too easy for injured workers the bill got amended in committee with the acquiescence of the author to narrow the proposal but to allow stakeholders to challenge UR conclusions, said challenges to include more legal wrangling with even less access to care since treatment will inevitably be delayed, postponed, or just not done while the wrangling process is in play. 

It is true that this proposal gives the applicant or patient an opportunity that wasn't previously available but it does not facilitate prescribed treatment by treating doctors -- and that, my friend, was supposed to have been the raison d'etre of AB 1107 in the first place. 

In the recent King v. CompPartners Inc case, August of 2018, a deserving patient was harmed by wrongful utilization review when authorization for his medication was  withdrawn. The injured worker tried to use "tort" law to sue the Utilization Review Provider but lost that battle when the California Supreme Court decided that work comp law provides  exclusive remedy for employees who allege injury because of treatment denial by UR. This decision in turn caused one of the Justices to say that the law for injured workers should be revisited.

THAT was what AB 1107 initially sought to do. Instead, we have a compromise which does not help injured workers when they need treatment but which provides them and their lawyers a way to challenge UR decisions later. This solution is another in the sordid list ot "too little, too late." This writer recommends revisiting the bill again to review the circumstances under which Utilization Review can be set aside so that injured workers get needed care in timely fashion. There is still time to amend the recent amendment. 

Reports reviewed for this editorial include

"Will AB 1107 Trim the Claws of UR," workcompcentral column, 2019-04-18 by Robert Weinmann;

"Turning the Clock Back on State's Workers' Compensation System, workcompcentral column, 2019-04-24 by Carlos Luna; 

"Utilization Review Physicians May Owe Duty of Care to Applicants, King v. Comp Partners, 2016, 243 Cal. App. 4th 685, Mullen and Filippi.