Some Insurers, Firms, Employees Remain Unsatisfied With Reform to State Workers’ Compensation Insurance System
Although measures to reform the state workers' compensation insurance system that lawmakers passed last year and a similar law (SB 899) enacted earlier this year were implemented with "great fanfare," some workers, employers and insurers have criticized the reforms for failing to provide lower costs and speedier care, the San Jose Mercury News reports. There is little data on the success of the new system, in part because some of the reforms are still being written into regulation form and have not taken full effect.
The "loudest complaints" about the reforms have come from injured workers and their lawyers, who say that there are more delays in the system because doctors are reluctant to treat patients without assurances of payment and because insurers are spending more time reviewing workers' compensation claims, "creating a backlog" of treatment requests, the Mercury News reports.
Some doctors also have said treating workers has become more burdensome because they are often questioned by insurance adjusters using new, incomplete treatment guidelines.
Some companies' workers' compensation insurance premiums have decreased by about 10%, and more insurers are providing coverage to employees, but some employers say insurers should "cut premiums further and faster," the Mercury News reports. According to the Mercury News, employers are not sure the rate reductions will persist, in part because Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau -- a not-for-profit group that represents insurers and recommends premium rates -- recently called for a 3.5% increase for policies renewed or written in 2005. WCIRB has said that after it receives more data about the reforms, it could call for a decrease in workers' compensation insurance rates (Lohse, San Jose Mercury News, 10/20).