More Staff, Better Procedures Needed for State Workers’ Compensation System, Report Says
California's workers' compensation system is understaffed, has an antiquated computer system and lacks standardized procedures, according to a report commissioned by the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation and conducted by the RAND Institute for Civil Justice, the Los Angeles Times reports. The report, presented yesterday, found that most of the one million claims appeals filed in California each year take "significantly longer" than the time frames mandated by state law, according to the Times. The California Workers' Compensation Appeals Board is required to hold a hearing on an appeal within 30 days and a trial with 75 days of the claim's filing. The report recommends boosting clerical staffing levels to alleviate a "bottleneck in the system" and replacing the computer system. Nick Pace, author of the 700-page report, wrote that "contradictory, vague, confusing or convoluted" rules often lead local officials to "invent their own procedures or evaluative criteria" (Reich, Los Angeles Times, 4/3). The report is available online.
Lawmakers and private groups have taken initiatives to reform the workers' compensation system. Summaries of those reports appear below:
- The Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau recommended an increase in workers' compensation premiums of 10.6% for new policies and renewals on or after July 1, the Sacramento Bee reports. The recommendation, made in a filing with the state Department of Insurance, will be addressed in a May 8 hearing in San Francisco (Walter, Sacramento Bee, 4/4).
- Gov. Gray Davis (D) plans to introduce legislation next week that would lower the cost of the workers' compensation system, Davis spokesperson Steve Maviglio said yesterday, the Sacramento Bee reports. Maviglio declined to say how many bills would be introduced or what measures the bills would contain, but did say that the proposals would address the priorities of the governor and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi (Talev, Sacramento Bee, 4/4).
- The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce has started an "aggressive letter-writing campaign" to lobby state legislators to enact reform to lower workers' compensation costs, the Los Angeles Times reports. The group has launched a Web site through which businesses can sign a letter addressed to Garamendi. The chamber's goal is to collect at least 1,000 letters; the Times reports that 150 have been submitted so far (Cho, Los Angeles Times, 4/4).