Need for Workers’ Compensation Reform Debated
Democratic lawmakers and labor representatives on Wednesday called for changes to the workers' compensation system, citing a study released last month that found claims paid to permanently disabled workers were reduced by 55%, on average, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports (Lawrence, AP/Contra Costa Times, 3/23).
At a hearing of the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations, lawmakers testified that regulation changes to the workers' compensation system enacted in 2004 were not intended to reduce permanent disability benefits.
Senate Labor Committee Chair Richard Alarcon (D-Van Nuys) said the lawmakers would send Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) legislation to raise permanent disability benefits if the formula for calculating the benefits for injured workers is not changed within the next few months.
Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) support such changes (Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, 3/23).
Carrie Nevans, acting director of the Division of Workers' Compensation, said additional data on the effects of the reforms were needed before any changes are made to the system. Nevans added that the law requires a review of the regulations beginning July 1 and that she already has started collecting information about wage losses from a year-long period ending June 30.
Nevans said that amending the regulations will "depend on what all the data shows, including some updated wage-loss information," but that "it's difficult ... to say" now whether changes will be made (AP/Contra Costa Times, 3/23).
Schwarzenegger said, "If we find there is something wrong, or that someone has been badly injured and has not gotten the money, then we will go and make those changes" (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 3/23).
Also on Wednesday, the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau recommended that insurers reduce rates charged to employers by 16.4% for policies written or renewed after July 1. A rating bureau spokesperson said "fewer claims, costing less money" led to the recommendation (Los Angeles Times, 3/23).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.