Garamendi, Vargas Meet With Union Leaders About Workers’ Compensation Reform
Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi (D) and Assembly member Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) on Monday met with a dozen union leaders in an attempt to reach a compromise on workers' compensation reform, the Sacramento Bee reports. "There is a great deal of work that needs to be done," Garamendi said after the two-hour meeting, but he added, "I really think we'll see a compromise by the end of March" (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 3/9). Garamendi said, "There's general agreement that we need rational medical standards and an independent medical examination by a trained and qualified physician," adding, "And there's increasing agreement that we ought to have immediate medical care so that employees will be able to see a physician before they feel the need to get a lawyer" (Calbreath, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/9).
Business groups throughout the state have begun "ramping up" their campaigns to collect about one million signatures by mid-April to qualify a workers' compensation reform initiative for the November ballot, the Bee reports (Sacramento Bee, 3/9). Michael Shaw, assistant state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said, "We've got to go forward on this. We can't wait for the next month to go by." Shaw said that the signature campaign will use professional petition distributors, who are paid $1.25 to $2.50 per signature, and volunteers from the business community and local governments (San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/9). The Committee for Workers' Compensation Reform and Accountability has raised $2.1 million to qualify the ballot measure, and the California Applicants' Attorneys Association has collected more than $850,000 to oppose the initiative, the Bee reports. "We are ready to fight. We'll be out there asking voters not to sign it," Steve Hopcraft, a spokesperson for the trial lawyers group, said (Sacramento Bee, 3/9). Garamendi said that the signature gathering campaign provides "motivation" for legislators but added that the initiative would "engender very strong opposition" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/9). Vargas said that the initiative "would be a disaster" (Sacramento Bee, 3/9). Vince Sollitto, a spokesperson for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), said that the governor "remains focused on the legislative process," adding, "He feels there's positive movement in the Legislature and he feels that legislation will provide relief faster than the initiative process" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/9).
Summaries of a recent editorial and opinion piece addressing workers' compensation reform are provided below.
San Francisco Chronicle: Legislators must complete a reform package for the "costly and complex" state workers' compensation system by the end of the month and not allow a reform initiative on the November ballot to proceed, a Chronicle editorial states. A ballot initiative "must remain a last resort" because of the advantages of legislative workers' compensation reform, including faster realization of savings and the ability to later modify unintended consequences, the editorial states (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/8).
- Phillip Matier/Andrew Ross, San Francisco Chronicle: While a workers' compensation reform ballot initiative "fight involving interest groups ... would be a political consultant's dream," it would also be a "politician's nightmare," even for the popular Schwarzenegger, Chronicle columnists Matier and Ross write. Workers' compensation reform "is a complicated issue and a very hard sell if there's a well-funded opposition," Matier and Ross write, concluding that "despite his soaring popularity, it's in Schwarzenegger's interest to seek a middle path" on the issue (Matier/Ross, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/8).
KQED's "Forum" on Tuesday will include a discussion of the proposed workers' compensation reform proposals. Guests on the program will include Garamendi; Sollitto; Christopher George, board member for the Small Business Action Committee; and Dr. Robert Weinmann, president of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (Krasny, "Forum," KQED, 3/9). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.