Friday, May 14, 2010, 08:43 AM - Political developmentsAfter today's budget revisions are unveiled by Governor Schwarzenegger, there will be a lot of unhappy campers.
California is back in the hole, big time. The deficit may be over $18 billion.
We're back where we were a year ago.
Consider the last year. In the workers' comp world we've seen SCIF employees and WCAB employees struggle in the courts to be exempted from furloughs.Morale suffered, and most comp system stakeholders felt it made no sense given that the comp system is supposedly user funded. Indeed, employer assessments that fund the comp system and other labor regulatory agencies rose at a time that WCAB service was being cut back.
Most of the applicant and defense bar adapted, scheduling depositions and informal settlement meetings on furlough Fridays. Lawyers and lien claimants you could never otherwise reach might be found in their office on the furlough Fridays.
But claimants had to wait longer for hearings. And many WCAB staffers and judges were economically stressed.
With this coming budget cycle the Governor will be talking about imposing direct pay cuts on state employees, including those at the DWC and WCAB. SCIF attorneys have been notified that they will be losing their employer-provided cars.
Whether California's situation is not like Greece:
http://www.californiaprogressreport.com ... =node/7749
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/14/opini ... ugman.html
or whether it is like Greece:
http://www.sacbee.com/2010/05/12/274406 ... 20Politics
............the reality is that we have a Governor and a legislative minority unlikely to agree to any significant revenue enhancements (taxes).
So look for more pain today.
Here's the assessment on where things stand from Jean Ross of the California Budget Project:
http://www.calbuzz.com/2010/05/jean-ros ... as-future/
Thursday, May 13, 2010, 07:34 AM - Political developmentsThe DWC was called on the carpet in legislative oversight hearings in Sacramento yesterday.
Held by the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, hearings focused on the DWC's decision to ignore the statutory mandate to revise the 2005 PDRS (the permanent disability rating schedule). The Labor Code mandated a revision by 1/1/2010, but the DWC has announced it will refuse to comply in light of concerns about the state's economy.
Here are some comments made by State Senator Mark DeSaulnier, chairing the hearings:
"California businesses and workers alike are required to comply with workers´ compensation laws. It is only reasonable that workers´ compensation regulators must also be required to comply with the law," said DeSaulnier. "Regulators cannot come before the Legislature, the Governor, and the people of California explaining that the dog ate their rating schedule. This is simply unacceptable."
"Californians who receive permanent disability workers´ compensation benefits are the most severely injured workers," said DeSaulnier (D-Concord). "I have asked that the regulators immediately provide a timeline for adopting a ratings schedule. Failure to adopt the schedule has resulted in injured workers continuing to receive only half the benefits that they may have otherwise received under a different rating schedule."
The hearing revealed that DWC's Carrie Nevans and even John Duncan, the DIR Director, were carrying out policy that came from the Governor's horseshoe.
No one expects a new PDRS schedule before this Governor leaves office in 2011.
But having legislative oversight hearings are overdue. They shine a light on what is going on behind the scenes. Thanks to Senator DeSaulnier for conducting the hearings.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 08:31 AM - Understanding the CA WC systemeMeg's campaign may be losing ground fast as Poizner tightens the race.
Whitman has been spending money at a rate of 4 cents per second. That may just have to increase.
The CWCI and DWC are out with studies on MPNs and medical treatment satisfaction. That will be fodder for commentary in coming days.
But first, turn to matters of health and work. If you're working long hours, how's your ticker?
A recent study seems to show that working overtime is bad for the heart:
http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journ ... ehq124.pdf
Here's further information on the results of the study:
http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journ ... ehq116.pdf
I know many of you readers out there are professionals working at a full tilt boogie pace. I'm one of them. But this is a reminder that there can be consequences with those long hours.
Years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Meyer Friedman, a San Francisco cardiologist. Friedman, who died in 2001, had been a prime proponent of the link between Type A behavior and heart disease, popularizing the link in his book (written with Dr. Ray Rosenman) "Type A Behavior and Your Heart". Friedman, based at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco (now part of UCSF), had a quick wit and bright presence.
Friedman served as my medical expert/QME in a number of workers' comp heart cases, making the connection between work-related Type A behavior and heart disease. Two of my defense adversaries in cases of this type were present WCAB members James Cuneo and Al Moresi.
Friedman, who had had heart attacks himself, was always ready to banter with attorneys about their lifestyle choices. Like retired San Francisco orthopedic QME Joseph Bernstein (who always produced a spread of cookies and goodies for attorneys taking his deposition), Friedman was part of a rich tapestry of characters who have been in the California workers' comp system.
Some aspects of this culture have always puzzled outsiders.
I recall a lawyer friend of mine from Arkansas (who helped Bill Clinton on a thing or two) coming along as a sidekick at the deposition of deceased San Francisco cardiologist Embree Blackard. Blackard was being cross examined on "The Theory".
"The Theory" was of course the Type A theory of Meyer Friedman. My lawyer friend always asks how California courts now treat "The Theory".
I tell him it's enshrined in presumptions of compensability for public safety officers with heart trouble.
To learn more about Friedman, here's his obit:
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/01/us/me ... at-90.html
And here's a wikipedia entry on Friedman:
Sunday, May 9, 2010, 11:25 AM - Understanding the CA WC systemHappy Mothers day to my readers in cyberspace.
I see many more mothers in my workers' comp practice than I did years ago when I began as an applicant attorney. Undoubtedly that's because women in so many families have gone to work in order for the family to make it economically.
When moms get displaced from their jobs because of an injury, the family budget can go into a tailspin.
Those moms often have a full plate. Let's just say that many of them don't have Bobby Flay waiting at home to cook dinner. Mr. Mom may be a trendy thing in some wealthy zip-codes, but it's not the norm in working America.
The AMA Guides (strictly interpreted) allocate pitiful impairment ratings for upper extremity problems suffered by many of the keyboard and hand-intensive jobs performed by women. But those women, moms many among them, have activities of daily living at work and at home that are constantly hand/arm dependent.
This is one reason why the Almaraz II approach to rating impairment has been cheered by many (including many of the defense attorneys I speak to, though they will not say so on the record for fear of losing
business from insurers and employers).
Anyway, here's a toast to the injured worker moms out there....may you have a blessed day today.
Thursday, May 6, 2010, 08:57 AM - Political developmentsThe continuing epidemic of employer workers' comp fraud continues.....
But now it has infected your local bagel provider? Mon dieu! as Inspector Clouseau would have said.
A purveyor of bagels in upscale Bay Area neighborhoods, Posh Bagel had previously been noted for vegan cream cheese and whitefish spread.
Now it's noted for arrests for workers' comp fraud by its owners Cheryl Ann Lee and Jeffrey Ottoveggio and its accountant/controller, Bruce William Campbell. Charged by the California Department of Insurance, they were booked into Santa Clara County jail.
Underreporting payroll to its comp carrier and EDD. Failure to report injuries despite the fact those injuries required medical treatment. A scheme to use Nevada business entities as a subterfuge to claim payroll for employees.
Premium losses to Applied Underwriters and First Comp Insurance are said to be close to $500,000.
As, I've noted before, "It's the Employer Fraud, Stupid":
http://www.workerscompzone.com/index.ph ... 670342ae49
http://www.workerscompzone.com/index.ph ... 818-110358