MATERNITY LEAVE: State Rescinds Controversial Policy
The state Employment Development Department yesterday reversed "a controversial new disability policy for pregnant women," conceding that the policy was implemented without proper approval. The Scripps McClatchy News/Contra Costa Times reports that the policy, outlined in a Nov. 6 letter to state physicians, mandated that doctors "specify how pregnancy impairs a woman's ability to work before approving their claim" for state disability benefits in the weeks before and after childbirth. Physicians feared the new policy would disrupt the "comfortable cushion of time" women were provided for childbirth -- four weeks prior to labor and six weeks after -- and force them to respond to claims questions regarding the "impairment or disabling factor" barring the patient from work. The policy would have put physicians "under pressure to fudge things and exaggerate other medical conditions simply because these guidelines are too strict," explained Dr. Peter Rogge, a Sacramento OB/GYN. The EDD responded to the physicians' concern and patients' "panic," agreeing to rescind the policy. Christeen Gomez, deputy director of the EDD's disability insurance branch explained, "We inadvertently did not talk to the (EDD) director, the Health and Welfare Agency, or the governor's office specifically about this change and what might be the implications." Tom Roberson, assistant secretary of the Health and Welfare Agency indicated that he was unaware of the policy change until last week, saying, "I think they really need to back away from this policy, given the fact that the process that led to the decision did not include parties that should have been included." Gomez asserted that the department has not uncovered any abuse of the childbirth benefits, but the policy change came as the department was striving to "revise the claims process to make sure that claims paid were for time the worker was disabled." The EDD is expected to push "the incoming administration" of Gov.-elect Gray Davis to examine the issue (Griffith, 12/1).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.