New Workers’ Compensation Regulations Governing Medical Treatment Take Effect
New workers' compensation rules that will decide permanent disability awards were enacted Friday following their approval by the Office of Administrative Law, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Under the regulations, physicians will be required to follow more stringent medical guidelines to assess a claimant's level of permanent disability. Physicians will use a new formula, which takes into account the loss of future earning potential, to calculate a cash payment.
Labor leaders are challenging the rules in court, and Democratic legislators are negotiating possible changes to the guidelines with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) plans to propose new rules during budget negotiations with the governor (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 6/11).
For the first time in 10 years, workers' compensation insurance premiums in 2004 were sufficient to cover the cost of claims, according to a report released on Friday by the Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. WCIRB, which analyzes industry performance, attributed the coverage statistic to legislation that made changes to the state workers' compensation insurance system, a continuous decline in the frequency of claims and an increase in premiums.
Carriers spent 85 cents -- 61 cents on injuries and 24 cents on administrative costs -- for every dollar they collected in premiums last year, down from $1.04 in 2003, according to the report (Fricker, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 6/11). The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.
The Sacramento Bee on Sunday profiled Andrea Hoch, administrative director of the Division of Workers' Compensation. "[W]ith her job secure," Hoch will focus on such issues as developing returning-to-work rules, medical treatment policies and medical data collection programs, the Bee reports.
Critics have "lambasted her decisions, focusing the sharpest criticism on new rules to determine benefits for workers with permanent disabilities," according to the Bee (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 6/13).