Saturday, February 7, 2009, 10:45 AM - Political developmentsIt's now the week that was.
Like it or not, come the expected Monday passage of the "stimulus", we're all going to be engaged in a great Keynesian experiment. Whether you think it's larded with pork or an Evel Knievel-style ramp which will boost us over the slough of depression into the promised land of economic recovery, it's coming.
Stimulus did not work for Japan, but perhaps we are different?
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/06/world ... r=1&hp
The Congressional Budget Office has raised significant questions about the long term effect of stimulus package debt:
Unsurprisingly, the economists can't agree:
It was a week when the crash and burn of Tom Daschle's nomination reminded us how difficult it would be achieve a comprehensive healthcare reform. Daschle was said to be uniquely positioned to shepherd such a reform through Washington, although there were concerns voiced by some about his ties to the industry. And a guy with red glasses like those? Either he's a genius or an effete politician.
It's clear that a small group of senators from Maine and the Midwest are going to hold the balance of power on many critical issues-from healthcare reform to the Employee Free Choice Act- as the Obama administration goes forward.
Here in the Bay Area there is a nasty war between SEIU and the United Healthcare West:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... s.business
Labor scored some wins this week. Yes, the Hilda Solis nomination is still in trouble over family tax issues (those Obama vetters now seek quite wacky!) Obama did issue an executive order that encourages union labor on federal construction projects:
http://www.boston.com/news/politics/pol ... s_lab.html
This executive order follows a series of executive orders issued January 30, 2009 that:
-reversed a Bush order that required employers to post signs informing workers of their right to limit financial support of unions serving as their collective bargaining representatives
-prohibited government contractors from being reimbursed for expenses incurred trying to influence workers on whether to form unions or engage in collective bargaining
-required federal contractors to offer jobs to qualified employees
when contracts change
On the workers' comp front, it was a week when the lights at the WCAB went dark on the first "Furlough Friday".
Apparently as a society we can only pay for so much justice.
Implementation of EAMS has delayed court settings at many boards. With furlough closures, delays will probably increase.
At the DWC there was activity on the regulatory matters:
The DWC issued revised medical treatment regs (MTUS) that affect treatment for chronic pain, elbows, and postsurgical treatment. The public can comment until February 20, 2009. Here's the link to the regs:
http://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/dwc_newslines ... 12-09.html
The public comment period on the audit regulations ended on February 6. Here is the current audit reg draft:
http://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/DWCPropRegs/A ... ations.pdf
This week's big compworld news was the WCAB en banc decisions in Ogilvie and Almaraz (see the last couple of posts). I'll be doing more commentary on both shortly.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009, 11:18 PM - Understanding the CA WC systemThe comp community was all a-twitter today.
The big buzz? Yesterday's en banc decisions in Olgilvie and Almaraz and Guzman (see yesterday's post)
A sample of comments from sources (applicant attorneys, defense attorneys and judges) I spoke with today:
...."Courageous"....."A slippery slope"...."What took them so long?"......"Finally, the pompous AMA police are put in their place"......"FEC is rebuttable, but is it worth the effort?"......"Could some of this be used as a sword against applicants?"......"Every case in process needs to be rethought"......."How do I explain the various ramifications of this to my clients?"......"Are we back to where we started a few years ago?"...."This will make the lawyers happy"....It "blows open the doors".....
"All that crap about so-called correct impairment ratings; the emperor had no clothes"....."We will see a lot more use of subrosa films to attack medical formulations of impairment"......."This will be a big bargaining chip in future legislative and regulatory negotiations"....""This was under the radar as people focused on Boughner and Benson"...."Ogilvie is too confusing to be useful"...."Two Court of Appeals Districts could wind up with Almaraz and Guzman; that's kind of wicked"......"Now we have a hot topic for all of the conventions and continuing ed providers"....."We'll see very early on which doctors will insist on applying the AMA very mechanically and which docs will take a more expansive approach to incorporating more detailed descriptions of ratable impairment"...."Functional capacity evaluations are back".....
In the next couple of posts I'll analyze these in more depth.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009, 09:36 PM - Understanding the CA WC systemFor some time I've been expecting that the WCAB would issue a decision clarifying its position on rebutting the 2005 permanent disability rating schedule.
In Scott Boughner vs. CompUSA the WCAB had upheld the validity of the 2005 PD schedule (Boughner's counsel has requested the Court of Appeal review that decision but there is no action yet on the request for writ of review).
The lesson of the Costa I, Costa II and Costa III cases has been that the WCAB will allow vocational or labor market expert testimony in an attempt to rebut the schedule. But so far, every panel decision I have seen has rejected the substance of the Costa testimony. In some cases the expert's efforts were not based on substantial evidence. In others the methodology was questioned.
Today the WCAB clarified its position, issuing two en banc decisions,
Wanda Ogilvie vs. City and County of San Francisco, and a separate decision in two cases, Mario Almaraz vs. Environmental Recovery Services and SCIF and Joyce Guzman vs. Milpitas Unified School District and Keenan and Associates.
In tandem, the decisions now provide a "road map" as to the standard for rebutting the AMA guides and the 2005 PDRS.
Note: one or both sides could seek a writ of review with the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal has discretion as to whether to hear such a case. Therefore, the following en banc decision are NOT necessarily the last word.
But no doubt about it. These are critical cases for the California workers' comp system.
Here is a link to a pdf of Ogilvie:
http://www.dir.ca.gov/wcab/EnBancdecisi ... ilvieW.pdf
Here's the pdf of Almaraz and Guzman:
http://www.dir.ca.gov/wcab/EnBancdecisi ... uzmanJ.pdf
In my next post I'll comment on Ogilvie and Almaraz.
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Tuesday, February 3, 2009, 08:55 AM - Political developmentsMore on shredding of the "safety net":
Cash strapped counties are having problems meeting their safety net obligations......Backlogs in the welfare system that may affect some who run out of unemployment, state disability or workers' comp and are unable to find employment in a declining economy.......
Here's the Contra Costa Times piece:
http://www.contracostatimes.com/politic ... source=rss
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Monday, February 2, 2009, 10:39 PMIn life, there's good shredding. Eddie Van Halen on guitar. Some of the licks from The Scorpions or one of your favorite metal bands.
And there's bad shredding. As in when the societal "safety net" starts to weaken.
In California the latter seems to be happening. We live in a time of "good banks" and "bad banks" as our leaders search for a solution to the vortex we've entered.
Even the prominent characters are like something out of a Batman movie.
Dr. Doom (NYU economist Nouriel Roubini) tells us we're early in the cycle.
The "Grave Dancer", investor Sam Zell, buys California's largest newspaper, the LA Times. The New York Times sells a huge stake to Mexican billionaire "Carlos Slim". Making off with billions is Mr. Madoff.
The Treasury Department has been run by alumni of Goldman Sachs; guys who pocketed fistfuls of leveraged loot on their way to a regulatory perch in the public sector.
"Turd blossom" (Karl Rove) is no longer at the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. "Sabertooth" (Bush's nickname for Congressman Barney Frank) has been putting together the TARP and "stimulus" package.
I'm not making this stuff up. It's the stuff of a "Sin City" graphic novel.
Meanwhile, that safety net is fraying. Here in California the unemployment insurance program is on life support.
Today Marc Lifsher did a good piece in the L.A. Times on the disarray at the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, where backlogs and personnel problems are causing great turmoil:
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-u ... ?track=rss
It's a great concern to disabled workers, many of whom depend on the unemployment system at some point after their injuries.
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