Worker’s Compensation Panel Continues Negotiations on Reform Measure
A special six-member Assembly-Senate conference committee tasked with fixing the "raging workers' compensation crisis" is negotiating two "major bills" that are expected to be introduced today, the Los Angeles Times reports (Vogel/Dickerson, Los Angeles Times, 9/6). The overall cost of the state workers' compensation system has grown from $9 billion in 1995 to an estimated $29 billion this year; the average medical cost per California workers' compensation claim increased 125% between 1997 and 2002, while medical costs nationwide increased an average of 22% (California Healthline, 9/5). The committee is still negotiating several proposals, the Sacramento Bee reports. The proposals are summarized below.
- The committee is debating how much to change the existing fee schedule for doctors, hospitals and other inpatient medical facilities. One proposal calls for a 5% across-the-board fee cut, the Bee reports.
- The committee is also considering a fee schedule for outpatient surgery centers. However, committee members are divided over the schedule because some say that setting the fees too low will cause doctors and outpatient facilities to leave the state.
- The committee is expected to recommend caps for chiropractic and physical therapy visits. The Bee reports that the committee has agreed to a cap of 30 chiropractic visits per claim and a cap of 24 physical therapy visits per claim (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 9/6). The Times reports that both caps will be 24 visits per claim.
- The committee is considering tying the prices paid for drugs in the workers' compensation system to a Medi-Cal fee schedule, the Times reports.
- The committee also may adopt the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine standards, which would create guidelines for how much care is appropriate for a particular injury, according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 9/6).
Assembly member and committee co-chair Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) has endorsed Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi's (D) proposal for cuts that total $6.2 billion, saying, "We need relief now. You need to have cuts that are real" (Sacramento Bee, 9/6). However, Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Sun Valley) said that the cuts should total $5 billion. "I think the employer community certainly would want to see much greater cost savings, but we have a responsibility to maintain the quality of care to injured workers," Alarcon said (Los Angeles Times, 9/6). Sen. Charles Poochigian (R-Fresno) said that the cuts should total around $11 billion (Sacramento Bee, 9/6).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.