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Last week Governor Jerry Brown signed a number of key bills to perserve the workers' compensation reforms enacted in 2004.
Since those reforms were passed, IBA West has played a leadership role in Workers' Compensation Action Network (WCAN), a California-based, grassroots coaliton of employer and insurance trade groups, businesses, non-profit organizations and public entities, whose mission has been to work together to ensure the full and successful implementation of California legislative workers' comp reforms.
The coalition's grassroots efforts, including IBA West members, stayed engaged throughout the legislative process and helped communicate directly with Gov. Jerry Brown the reform message to maintain fairness in the system, curb costly abuses and prevent further erosion of the changes enacted during the last decade.
Key actions by the Governor include:
AB 378 (Compound Drugs) – SIGNED. This bill, supported by labor, management and others, will establish a fee schedule for compound drugs, the prescribing of which has exploded by an astonishing 413% since 2006. AB 378 ensures that these pharmaceuticals are available to injured workers, but closes the fee schedule loophole that some were exploiting for profit.
AB 947 (Temporary Disability) –VETOED. This bill would have rolled back the 104-week cap on Temporary Disability (TD) payments on specified workers’ compensation claims. Although the bill was amended, initial estimates pegged the cost at more than $200 million. In addition to higher benefit costs, AB 947 would have sparked a flood of new litigation as attorneys worked to make its provisions apply to the broadest set of cases, eviscerating the current benefit cap. Worse, it would have created incentive to delay medical treatment and drive more injured workers into surgery.
AB 1155 (Apportionment) -- VETOED. This bill would have unnecessarily prohibited apportionment on permanent disability claims that California courts have found is not allowed under existing law. In so doing, this bill would have created an opening for attorneys to challenge legitimate apportionment decisions and pushed disability costs back onto employers that were not the result of the workplace disability.
AB 584 -- VETOED. This bill, among other things, requires that a physician, for the purposes of workers' comp, who is conducting utilization reviews of proposed medical treatment for an injured worker, be licensed in California. The requirement of using only California-licensed physicians would be an abrupt change and inconsistent with the manner in which utilization
review is conducted by health care service plans under the Knox-Keene Act and by those regulated by the California Department of Insurance.
The Governor also vetoed legislation that would have created barriers to the process for reviewing medical treatment requests and the payment of the job displacement voucher and signed bills to streamline benefit notices for injured workers and set a fee schedule for vocational rehabilitation experts.
Our involvement in this key coalition is the made possible by donations to the association's political actions funds. More than $1 million has been raised since the inception of the IBAiPac fund and each year we have invested your contributions in a wide range of advocacy efforts. There will continue to be many legislative challenges ahead and you can make sure your voice is heard by supporting IBA West and making a PAC contribution today. To make an online contribution to IBAiPac, click here.