Survey Findings Fuel Debate Over Workers’ Comp Reform
Both supporters and critics of modifications to the California workers' compensation insurance system cite findings of a recent survey in making their cases, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The Legislature called for the survey to measure how laws that overhauled the system have affected workers' access to medical care and the quality of care. The survey included responses from 1,001 workers' compensation claimants.
According to the survey, the majority of workers are satisfied or very satisfied with the care they receive and return to work within three days.
Lead investigator Gerald Kominski of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research said the survey found high levels of satisfaction among injured workers and no substantial decline in quality of care since a 1998 survey.
However, Linda Atcherley -- president of the California Applicants' Attorneys Association, an advocacy group for attorneys who represent workers' compensation claimants -- said she is concerned by some findings, including that:
- Minorities were more likely than whites to report not receiving quality health care;
- 13.5% of respondents said they did not receive proper care;
- 55% said they had not recovered completely from their injury within a year; and
- 65% of health care providers said they believed that the quality of care for injured workers had decreased since the laws took effect.
Carrie Nevans, acting administrative director of the Division of Workers' Compensation, said the agency has worked to expedite claims from insurers to health care providers and is developing rules that would penalize insurers that delay medical treatment for workers (Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, 3/19).
Meanwhile, Sen. Dave Codgill (R-Fresno) has introduced a bill (SB 452) that would exempt some family farmers from carrying workers' compensation insurance for family members who work for free, the Sacramento Bee reports. Under current state law, only spouses or children are exempt from a requirement that employers provide workers' compensation coverage for all employees.
The bill would apply to farms with annual taxable incomes of less than $100,000 -- about 60,000 of the state's nearly 80,000 farms.
Opposition from labor unions and advocates for agricultural workers led to the defeat of a similar effort last year.
Codgill's office said the senator would consider compromises to create a pilot program in a specific region or lower the eligibility guidelines for the exemption (Schultz, Sacramento Bee, 3/19).