Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 08:53 AM - Political developmentsA writ has been granted in the Guzman case.
For non-lawyers out there, it means that the California Court of Appeal, 6th District (based in San Jose) has agreed to hear the case. In Guzman II the WCAB indicated that it will allow physicians to use all aspects of the AMA guides themselves (up to the "four corners" of the guides) in order to assess an accurate impairment rating.
Here is a link to the WCAB decision in Guzman II:
http://www.dir.ca.gov/wcab/EnBancdecisi ... ep2009.pdf
The 6th District is turning out to be a hotbed of appellate activity in workers comp. The Hertz v. WCAB (Aguilar) case came out of the 6th District. Hertz/Aguilar is now awaiting a date for oral argument at the California Supreme Court. The "XYZZ" case involving "colas" is out of the 6th District. The district is somewhat unpredictable.
It's not surprising that the court has elected to take the case. The case involves major issues of statewide impact.
So far the Court of Appeal 5th District has not signaled that it will take the Almaraz case appeal.
It's quite possible that the 6th District and the 5th District could both hear the Almaraz/Guzman issues and disagree. In that event the cases would have to go to the California Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the 6th District declined to impose a stay on the Guzman ruling.
Some injured worker advocates have felt confident that the Almaraz/Guzman decisions will withstand appellate court scrutiny. They believe that legislative dealmaking is best delayed in hopes that a Democratic governor is elected.
Whether that's a wise strategy or effectively a quixotic effort to run the table remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, all ye amicus groups, start your engines......
Monday, February 22, 2010, 10:05 PM - Political developmentsDan Walters is California's most seasoned journalist covering the scene at the state capitol. Over the years Walters again and again has shown his grasp of the politics and personalities that animate the legislative scene.
So it's with interest that I note his piece in today's Sacramento Bee, "Workers' Comp Battle Awaits New Governor":
http://www.sacbee.com/2010/02/22/255412 ... attle.html
Walters notes that the Schwarzenegger comp reform, enacted by "bulldozing the Legislature", has cut employer's costs by about $15 billion a year or almost $100 billion so far.
He also notes that the Schwarzenegger administration has refused to comply with legal requirements to amend the permanent disability rating schedule effective January 2010.
Walters calls workers' comp "one of the important, if subliminal, issues of this year's election".
Monday, February 22, 2010, 12:08 AM - Political developmentsCould it be that Anthem Blue Cross has given the gift that keeps on giving?
Anthem Blue Cross recently announced rate hikes of as much as 39% for many of its 700,000 California customers. The company claims that troubled economy has caused many to drop coverage, leaving it with a sicker, more expensive population.
Critics claim that in 2009 the 5 largest private insurers reaped over $12 billion in profits.
California is one of 25 states that don't regulate health insurance rates
(just as it doesn't actually regulate workers' comp rates either).
Outrage over Anthem Blue Cross's action has given the Obama Administration a hook to revive the moribund healthcare reform process. To those who say the healthcare system is doing just fine, the White House can cite the 39% rate hikes.
And Obama will be doing just that. He'll be proposing federalizing a rate review process by creating a Health Insurance Rate Authority, composed of 7 members (to include consumer advocates, an industry representative, a physician, etc).
The authority would issue an annual report setting the parameters for reasonable rate increases based on consumers in the market.
It reminds one of the function of the WCIRB in California's workers' comp market, though the WCIRB governing board is largely from the insurance industry.
Details are sketchy, but the proposal would apparently give some power to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to block insurance rate hikes or order rebates to customers.
Politically this is probably a winner.
But eventually all aspects of the healthcare delivery system need to be retooled. If expanding coverage and controlling costs were easy, a reform plan would have sailed through already. But without a public option or single payer system, expanding coverage through mandating that individuals buy coverage is tricky and controversial.
Getting rid of pre-existing coverage exclusions remains popular. As I've been noting for a long time, this is critical for so many of California's injured workers, many of whom lose their group insurance coverage.
But the experience in New York is a cautionary tale. In New York, a "guaranteed issue" law and "community rating" mandate have combined to make insurance costs high. Allowing people to purchase insurance on the way to the hospital tends to undermine a stable system of healthcare financing. Here's an excellent piece from Los Angeles Times writer Noam M. Levey, "A Cautionary Tale in Healthcare Reform":
http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and- ... full.story
Saturday, February 20, 2010, 08:55 AM - Political developmentsCalifornia is sure to have an interesting political season.
It's a novel campaign strategy: hold your fire to the end of the campaign, then let em' have it....
But that appears to be the Steve Poizner strategy against Meg Whitman:
http://www.contracostatimes.com/politic ... ck_check=1
It's a rope-a-dope strategy. Somebody needs to tell the Commish that's not the way to build enthusiasm in a political campaign.
But then again, Whitman has been ducking a 1 on 1 with Poizner. Finally, yesterday she agreed to a May 2 debate.
Whitman has been so averse to answering substantive questions that planes are now circling some of her events, trailing banners asking questions about her plans for the state.
If Whitman doesn't talk to the press soon, perhaps they'll have to hire skywriter planes (skywriter trivia for you: remind any of you readers out there of Roberto Bolano's "Distant Star"?:
http://www.amazon.com/Distant-Star-Robe ... 0811215865
Meanwhile, over in the Democratic camp there was some grumbling about the Brown campaign and Brown's rambling speech at a Sierra Club event:
http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2010/02/18 ... among-dems
I suspect it was just Jerry being the philosophical Jerry, part Jesuit and part Zen master. Brown is brilliant. With him the voters will not get rope-a-dope.
DiFi has apparently removed any doubt that she plans to remain in the senate rather than enter the gubernatorial race. Today Feinstein is focusing on legislation to allow federal regulation of health insurance rates in the wake of 39% rate hikes by Anthem Blue Cross:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... ss.bayarea
What's the Whitman plan to control those health insurance costs?
Anybody have a skywriter plane?
Thursday, February 18, 2010, 07:26 AM - Political developmentsIdeas that seem good don't always work out well in practice.
Today we see that the program to use Federal stimulus money to create jobs and save energy by weatherizing homes (at a $5 billion price tag) has bogged down. Instead of the projected 595,000 homes, less than 25,000 were weatherized in 2009:
http://abcnews.go.com/WN/Politics/stimu ... id=9780935
Here in our little California workers' comp world, furloughs have been applied with an axe rather than a scalpel. In a user funded department, workers and employers have seen service they paid for reduced.
But now State Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg proposes to prohibit this by statute. Steinberg has introduced SB 29. The bill would exempt employees funded at least 95% by sources other than the General Fund.
Here's the bill text:
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bil ... duced.html
This year the Governor proposes pay cuts, of course. Applying those to agencies funded by non-taxpayer revenue streams has been criticised by the Legislative Analyst. Here's my post on that issue:
http://www.workerscompzone.com/index.ph ... 131-114926