Friday, April 18, 2008, 06:42 AM - Political developmentsI've been on the road this week, so this space has been dark for a few days. From afar a few things caught my eye.
State Senate Pro Tem Don Perata is unveiling his proposed PD increase bill in the next few days. That'll be the third try in 3 years. Guv Schwarzenegger has twice vetoed bills passed by the legislature to increase permanent disability benefits. In many categories, California now has some of the lowest benefits for permanently disabled workers.
But an effective employer-insurer coalition has the Governor's ear, and it's unlikely that the third time will be a charm unless the bill can be part of a trade for other things the Governor wants. But it's an unusual time in Sacramento as both Governor and legislature face decisions over massive budget cuts to bring the state's budget into balance.
Also significant this week was the apparent fizzle of a comp rate regulation bill sponsored by Assemblyman Ed Hernandez. The applicant attorneys I know are divided on comp rate regulation. Some wistfully recall the days in the 80s and 90s when insurance carriers joined forces with labor and applicant attorneys to achieve legislative victories. Others recognize that without increased regulatory focus on the insurance industry the current situation could continue indefinitely......a system in which benefits to disabled workers are dwarfed by insurance overhead and profit.
In the courts, the 3rd District Court of Appeal rendered a significant decision in Foster v. WCAB. In Foster the worker had 2 successive injuries, both of which contributed to the need for temporary disability benefits. The worker argued that this entitled him to 2 periods of 104 weeks of TD. The court disagreed, holding he was entitled only to 104 weeks. You can see the decision by clicking here:
http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/do ... 056820.PDF
I've been experimenting with introducing video to this site. Stay tuned.
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Friday, April 11, 2008, 09:07 AM - Political developmentsThe weekend is nigh.
Workers start fidgeting in their cubicles and factories.For some the weekend might normally mean salmon fishing. Not this year. What to do? An adventure to the mall with that trusty plastic card? That great American tradition of shop til you drop is fading, a victim of the credit crunch.
In a few hours the watering holes in the Bay Area will be flooded with office professionals sipping the latest trend, designer cocktails. Supporters of "one China" will be squaring off in arguments against supporters of a free Tibet. In less upscale saloons some workers will be grousing about the fading American dream and who is responsible for the mess we're in.
Before you go off on your own adventure, here's the weekend comp update.
EAMS (the project to make the WCAB paperless) has been in the spotlight. Hearing concerns among stakeholders (and particularly from physicians and other lien claimants who use EDEX), the legislature held a hearing on Wednesday. Depending on whom you talk to, EAMS is either on track or likely to have some serious flaws. Lien claimants want an EDEX-like functionality. And there's great concern as to how the system was contracted so that the DWC has only a limited number of "user licenses", which seems to leave Deloitte Consulting in a position to wring more money out of the taxpayer for more licenses for what should be a turnkey project in the first place. Still, it's a worthy and necessary project being headed by capable people.
The California Supreme Court has announced it will hear arguments in the Sandhagen case in May. Sandhagen involves issues regarding utilization review procedures. It's an important, but not earth shaking issue.
And the California Workers Compensation Institute (CWCI) released a study claiming that comp premiums have dropped to their lowest level in a decade. It's more evidence that the system is shrinking, as intended by the designers of the 2004 reform, SB 899. Whether the system maintains adequate benefits for those who are injured is very much in question, however.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008, 10:51 PM - Understanding the CA WC systemIt's a brief-fest!
The stakes couldn't be higher. Did the 2004 reform wipe out Wilkinson?
If each little injury a worker has suffered is rated separately rather than lumped together to determine overall effect, the savings for insurers will be huge. That's the issue in the Benson case.
Here's the latest salvo. A brief filed by attorney Carl Taber of Petaluma on behalf of the defendant Permanente Medical Group can be found here:
http://www.workcompcentral.com/pdf/2008 ... lgroup.pdf
To my knowledge, the Court of Appeal hasn't yet decided whether to hear the case.
Monday, April 7, 2008, 08:37 AM - Political developmentsLater this week I'll be doing a recap on the Top 10 developments in workers' comp for the first quarter of 2008.
But today, let's look at an important employment related issue: paid sick leave.
Millions of California employees have no paid sick leave. If they're sick, they earn nothing. This gives employers who provide no sick leave an economic cost advantage over employers who provide a more comprehensive benefits package.
Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (Democrat-San Francisco) proposes a bill to address this situation, the "Healthy families, Healthy Workplaces Act of 2008" . AB 2716 would require employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
Small businesses (with 10 or less employees) would provide up to 5 paid sick days per year. Larger businesses would provide up to 9 days per year.
Employees could use days to provide care for a person they designate.
Certain businesses covered by collective bargaining agreements would be exempted if the bargaining agreement specifically waived coverage.
Hearings will be held on this bill this Wednesday by the California Assembly Labor and Employment committee. The California Chamber of Commerce and other business groups will line up in opposition, claiming that this is a "job killer" bill.
You can expect to hear the argument that now is not the time to expand burdens on employers in a time of recession and shrinking payrolls. opponents will say that we can't afford the kinds of worker protections afforded by progressive European countries like Denmark. It's an argument likely to resonate with the Governor.
But sick leave is is a serious issue for low-paid workers.Want to learn more about the real lives of those kinds of workers? Take a look at Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed".
Lacking any economic cushion, these workers can lose their job and be thrown into economic chaos by suffering routine bouts of the flu or other common illnesses. The Ma bill would address that. Even if the bill ends up lacking traction in Sacramento, Fiona Ma has done a service by highlighting the issue.
The text of the Ma bill is here:
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bil ... asm_v98.pd
Friday, April 4, 2008, 11:56 AM - Political developmentsGreeting from Sherman Oaks. I'm here in L.A. attending meetings of the California State Bar's workers' compensation subcommittee.
Next week I'll be doing a recap of the Top 10 developments in California workers' comp in the first quarter of 2008.
But catching my eye today was a study on the consequences of the general healthcare crisis. The study, entitled "Dying for Coverage" is by Families USA.
The ranks of the uninsured for health coverage in California continues to swell. We've got individuals-and families-who are ticking health time bombs.
Some of them die due to inattention to their health.
Here's the report:
http://www.familiesusa.org/assets/pdfs/ ... fornia.pdf
Surely we can do better than this system.
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