Schwarzenegger Appoints New Director of Workers’ Compensation Division
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Monday appointed Andrea Hoch, a chief assistant attorney general, as the new administrative director of the Division of Workers' Compensation, the Sacramento Bee reports. Hoch will have a "major impact" on reshaping the state's workers' compensation system and her "performance will determine whether lawmakers and the governor will reap billions in savings sought in the compromise legislation," the Bee reports. As head of DWC, Hoch will be responsible for establishing new rules dictating how medical treatment and disability benefits are determined. DWC, which has a $103.4 million budget this fiscal year and 855 employees, monitors thousands of workers' compensation claims filed each year and manages the administrative and judicial process to resolve disputes, the Bee reports. "I have every confidence that [Hoch] will ensure the reforms ... will be implemented swiftly and properly so that employers can see reduced costs and injured workers can benefit from appropriate care and better benefits in a timely manner," Schwarzenegger said. Hoch said that she will "strive to ensure that workers and employers alike realize the full benefits of this important new law." According to the Bee, the appointment was "lauded" by business and labor groups. "She has an excellent legal background. It's a critical position," Nathan Ballard, a spokesperson for the California Labor Federation, said. Nicole Mahrt, spokesperson for the American Insurance Association, said that Hoch will "have a full plate," adding, "There are going to be a lot of fee schedules and regulations that need to be developed." Hoch replaces Richard Gannon, who was appointed by former Gov. Gray Davis (D). Her appointment to the position, which has an annual salary of $117,818, requires Senate confirmation (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 4/27).
In related news, the Assembly Insurance Committee on Wednesday voted 10-1 to approve a bill that would require the administrator of the state's workers' compensation system to establish a fee schedule for specialized medical equipment whose prices are not already set by Medicare, the Los Angeles Times reports. The bill does not set a specific date for implementing the new fee schedule. Critics of the bill say that it contains "loosely worded criteria that could lead to higher prices" and that the measure was written to benefit Irvine-based medical equipment company VisionQuest Industries, the Times reports. Assembly member Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood), who voted against the bill, said the legislation is "a special-interest bill for one company," adding, "This is a way to cut themselves a better deal." Assembly member Ken Maddox (R-Costa Mesa), sponsor of the bill, said that the bill would "streamline part of (workers' compensation) and bring down costs so we don't have disputes" between providers and insurers. A spokesperson for Schwarzenegger said that the governor's office has not examined the bill and would not comment on it (Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, 4/24).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.