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Thursday, October 10, 2013

California Workers' Compensation Reform: Is The System in a Ditch Now?

California is the sentinel jurisdiction for innovative decisional law, theory and statutory changes in workers' compensation. As goes California, so goes the nation. The changes to limit access are coming so quickly that perennial reform has become almost weekly now. The complexity is almost scary. Recent proposed modifications in the Independent Medical Review (IMR) process reflect what happens when statutory changes are not first vented with those who are major stakeholders, ie. injured workers and their representative. Commentary and analysis, continue to be kicked down the road as the system stalls and fails. Today's blog post is shared from
Last year, the California Legislature -- with the blessing of Gov. Jerry Brown -- enacted its traditional, once-a-decade overhaul of the state's multibillion-dollar-a-year system of compensating workers for job-related injuries and illnesses.

Employers, insurers, medical care providers and other players in the workers' compensation system are still sorting through what the Legislature and Brown wrought. Generally, the overhaul,
Senate Bill 863, raised some cash benefits but also tightened up eligibility for, or even eliminated, other benefits. This earned rare joint support from employer groups and labor unions, which had worked on the changes privately.

JD_COMP_STRETCHER.JPGA new 16-state study of workers' compensation systems, covering 60 percent of the nation's workers, says it's too early to tell what the real-world effects of SB 863 will be, specifically whether its cost-saving provisions will offset the costs of increased cash payments, as its sponsors promised.

Because the effects of the 2012 overhaul are still unknown, the study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute in Cambridge, Mass., concentrated its section on California on how it compared to other states during the years following the previous overhaul in 2004.

It found that disabled California workers were receiving permanent partial disability payments more often than those in other major states and that those payments tended to be longer in duration -- thus confirming one of employers' complaints,...
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