Monday, April 23, 2007, 09:08 AM - Political developmentsAs I continue to note, the debate in Sacramento over health care reform is critical to many injured workers since so many of them lose their group health coverage.
Last week, the Senate Health Committee voted favorably on the single payer plan sponsored by State Senator Sheila Kuehl. The single payer concept is still alive for now. My blog post last week, "The $12,000 Broken Rib," covers the single-payer issue.
But most Capitol observers don't believe it has enough political traction to survive as the legislature's plan, let alone get the support of Governor Schwarzenegger.
I frequently disagree with fellow blogger Bill Bradley (not the former basketball player-turned U.S. Senator!), but his blog, New West Notes, is often worthwhile reading for its take on California politics. You may find it interesting to read the following blog post on "Prognosis For Schwarzencare":
http://billbradley.pajamasmedia.com/200 ... rzcare.php
Saturday, April 21, 2007, 10:21 AM - Political developmentsHappy Birthday?
April 19 was the 3rd birthday of SB 899, Schwarzenegger's workers' comp reform. Dueling press releases were issued by employer groups and injured worker groups, including Voters Injured at Work.
The California Labor Federation study can be accessed here:
http://www.calaborfed.org/pdfs/Legislat ... .27.07.pdf
WCAN (the Workers' Compensation Information Network) is a coalition of large employer groups, trade associations, cities and counties which advocate for lower workers' comp costs. To see the WCAN home page. click here:
You can find WCAN's press release on the 2004 reforms by clicking here:
http://www.fixworkerscompnow.org/pdf/an ... 041907.pdf
Voters Injured at Work is a statewide organization of workers fighting for worker justice. You can find their press release here:
http://www.viaw.org/board.php?b_code=bl ... c=list#491
Happy birthday? Depends on who you are. Big winners: insurers, big self-insured employers, large public entities. Big losers: injured workers, doctors, small employers who have not seen large savings, lawyers.
But, given the continuing exodus of manufacturing jobs to offshore locales, has the reform actually made California business more competitive? And can insurers continue to justify a system that pays out in benefits only around 30% of premium dollar collected? What are socially adequate levels of long term wage-loss replacement?
This blog will continue to analyze the effects of SB 899 and developments in California workers' comp law. Stay tuned.
Thursday, April 19, 2007, 10:02 PM - Political developmentsThis week... the week of the Virginia Tech massacres, has been a traumatic week for many Americans. Once again, a certain mythic innocence has been lost. Our culture seems coarser. The university... an idealized place of learning... a site for the rites of passage to adulthood... has been stained by a crazed act.
I wish I could say this isn't a concern in California's workers' comp system. But that would be a lie. Here's an example why.
In February 2006, a disgruntled claimant took a concealed, loaded handgun to the Oakland Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, intending to vent his frustration by shooting people. Although the individual decided not to shoot anyone, he was turned in by his roommate and arrested with the gun in his posession after leaving the WCAB. A link to the story is at the bottom of this post.
I'm sure there have been other scary examples. But 2006 was a big wake-up call.
Violence is a hard thing to predict. Many of us in the Bay Area legal community remember the horrible massacre at 101 California. But the confluence of anger, financial stress and medical desperation many injured workers feel leaves California's workers' comp boards particularly vulnerable to the possibility of violence. Although a few district offices of the California Workers' Comp Appeals Board have metal detectors (including the San Francisco building housing the California Supreme Court), most do not. Contrast this to county Superior Courts, most of which have metal detectors.
The State has been slow to act. Boxer and Gerson has written to a number of politicians and officials pointing out the need for metal detectors at the Oakland WCAB. Despite promises, any action appears mired in bureaucratic maze.
It is time for the Division of Workers' Compensation to come up with a plan.
To see a link to the story on the 2006 event in Oakland, click here:
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_q ... _n16459649
After the 1993 massacre at 101 California in San Francisco, many Bay Area lawyers worked hard to form the Legal Community Against Violence. To see the site of the Legal Community Against Violence, click the following:
Tuesday, April 17, 2007, 09:48 PM - Political developmentsIf you think the health care system in California isn't broken, just ask Joey Palmer. A minor solo motorcycle accident wound up costing him $12,000 in medical bills at a San Francisco hospital... money he didn't have. His saga can be found in the piece by San Francisco Chronicle columnist David Lazarus by clicking here:
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f ... =printable
Tomorrow (Wednesday, April 18), the California Senate Health Committee will hold hearings on Senate Bill SB 840, the so called "single payer" health bill sponsored by State Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica). The hearings will be televised at 1:30 over the internet on the California Channel, which can be accessed by clicking here:
The text and status of SB 840 can be tracked by clicking here:
http://info.sen.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquer ... p;site=sen
Kuehl's bill is one of several principal proposals for California health care reform. Assembly Speaker Nunez has a plan, as does Senate Pro Tem Perata. And Governor Schwarzenegger has a proposal. The Governor's plan has generated much criticism, since it includes provisions for physicians and hospitals to pay fees (taxes?) on services. That plan would allow the state of California to track down and impose fines on individuals who fail to carry health insurance. For an LA Times analysis of this, see the following:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me ... california
As I have noted for several months, this is a debate of great interest to many of California's injured workers. Many injured workers lose their health coverage after being off work for an extended time due to injury. Few injured workers can afford to exercise the right to purchase group health coverage under their COBRA rights.
The Kuehl plan, SB 840, offers great promise for California. It deserves serious consideration.
Saturday, April 14, 2007, 09:55 PM - Political developmentsIf you are trying to understand the current situation in California workers' comp... be you a politician, a journalist or an injured worker... I have an excellent idea for you... download the recent study of workers' comp released in March 2007 by the California Labor Federation.
You can download the study by clicking here:
http://www.calaborfed.org/pdfs/Legislat ... .27.07.pdf
The Labor Federation's study is "must reading." It is heartening to see the Labor Federation (and its legislative director Angie Wei) take such an active role in the Sacramento on behalf of the plight of injured workers.
Unfortunately, this was not always the case. When I first began in workers' comp several decades ago, there was a rocky relationship between labor and the advocates of injured workers. Few applicant attorneys maintained substantive relationships with labor leaders over the years. And, there were some bad feelings leading up to and after the passage of SB 899 in 2004. Many applicant attorneys felt that labor could have done more to soften the language in SB 899.
But labor now clearly recognizes that SB 899 has resulted in tremendous unfairness. And for now, it appears that all parties on the boat are rowing in synch.
Rowing in synch will be important over the next few years as labor and injured workers must deal with a popular governor whose signature issue has been workers' comp reform. Victories are likely to be incremental, as a result of negotiations with the governor. But labor
recognizes that the workers left behind are suffering. That's a big start.