Legislation Introduced To Allow American Indian Tribe To Sell Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Assembly member Bill Maze (R-Visalia) on Friday introduced a bill (AB 2780) that would allow the Inyo County-based Fort Independence American Indian Tribe to sell workers' compensation insurance, the Los Angeles Times reports (Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, 2/21). State regulators object to the Tribe's sale of workers' compensation insurance because they say that workers' compensation coverage provided by American Indian tribes violates laws requiring employers to have proof of coverage from a state-licensed insurance company or to provide a certificate stating that they meet state financial requirements to be self-insured; Tribes' workers' compensation insurance programs do not participate in a state-backed pool that ensures enough funding is available to pay injured workers if their employers' insurance company becomes insolvent; and workers covered by American Indian plans do not receive the same rights to legal representation or to take denied appeals to the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (California Healthline, 2/17). Maze said that the Tribe's insurance policies could help reduce employers' workers' compensation insurance costs, adding, "As the governor has indicated, we ought to be thinking outside of the box." According to the Times, Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi (D) said that "he had no quarrel with Indian insurance companies," provided that the companies consent to regulation by the Department of Insurance (Los Angeles Times, 2/21).
Summaries of a recent editorial and an opinion piece are provided below.
Los Angeles Times: In trying to approve legislation that would reduce employers' workers' compensation insurance costs, the concern is that "legislators will grasp at simplistic solutions," such as the package designed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Sen. Charles Poochigian (R-Fresno), a Times editorial states. According to the editorial, cutting $11 billion from the state workers' compensation system "would throw it into chaos, with workers the victims." The editorial concludes, "Legislators should pick the areas where compromise is most possible and act on them by March 1," adding that Schwarzenegger "is savvy enough to see that such increments would bring more relief faster to businesses and injured workers alike" (Los Angeles Times, 2/23).
- Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee: The Legislature's struggle to develop a proposal to "rein in skyrocketing costs" of the state workers' compensation system by March 1 is "a game of chicken, with Schwarzenegger and employers demanding a major overhaul and Democratic legislators and their allies hoping that the governor will accept something less," columnist Walters writes in a Bee opinion piece. The only player supporting a "middle-ground approach" is Garamendi, who is caught between "the Democrat-union-lawyer alliance and the Schwarzenegger-employer-insurer coalition," Walters writes. According to Walters, most likely "with the pressure from Schwarzenegger and employers, the Legislature will produce a reform plan by late March -- but whether it will be enough to forestall a ballot battle ... is uncertain." Walters concludes that "the only certainty, in fact, is that ... the Capitol's workers' comp war will continue indefinitely" (Walters, Sacramento Bee, 2/18).