Monday, September 26, 2011, 09:35 PM - Political developmentsSome injured workers may assume that California's Insurance Commissioner has a lot to do with workers' comp benefits.
That's actually not the case, as the Insurance Commissioner is not involved in administering the system, setting policy and procedures, or legislative matters.
Still, the Insurance Commissioner must weigh in periodically on rates, which is why hearings are held on rate "filings". Although the rulings by the CDI are advisory only, they have political impact in that they get press and focus the attention of pundits and policymakers on trends in the system.
Tomorrow the California Department of Insurance will be holding a hearing in San Francisco on the WCIRB's rate filing for 2012. Here is a link to summary of the filing:
The lengthy filing for 2012 advisory rates can be found here:
It's good to know that consumer and worker advocate Dave Jones is running the California Department of Insurance. Jones is a friendly, bright and energetic new face on the political horizon in California.
In his limited time in office Jones has focused his energy on the healthcare arena, seeking to implement the Obama health reform. Jones has also focused on promoting legislation that would provide for some CDI regulation of health insurance rates. And he has backed a measure to give employers more rights to resolve disputes with insurers in California rather than other forums.
With all this in mind, I noted an article of interest in an insurance industry publication, headlined "Consumer-Friendly Dave Jones Rubs Some in Insurance Industry the Wrong Way" that does a capable job of summarizing some of the issues that have surfaced under Jones' tenure other than workers' comp:
Sunday, September 25, 2011, 03:52 PM - Political developmentsInterested in following the upcoming Tuesday morning hearings on workers' comp rates by the California Department of Insurance, but unable to get to San Francisco to attend in person?
The hearing may be very interesting as the WCIRB and the CDI shift from a former measure of workers' comp rates to a new measure.
There's a solution for those who can't show up in person.
The Workers' Comp Executive publication will be livestreaming coverage. The coverage is free for subscribers and available for a fee for non-subscribers.
Log on to www.wcexec.com for details.
It's good to see the workers' comp press expanding choices for those in the public who seek to follow these issues.
Sunday, September 18, 2011, 09:50 PM - Political developmentsAmerica seems to be in the midst of a sea change about the concept of personal responsibility.
The latest reminder was the audience response to questions posed to Presidential candidate Ron Paul by moderator Wolf Blitzer at a recent GOP Presidential debate.
Should an uninsured 30 year old with a treatable condition who chose not to have health insurance die? Paul insisted that charity would step up to the plate, but some in the crowd cheered "let him die":
http://elections.americablog.com/2011/0 ... about-sick
In most liberal political philosophic traditions, the common good is best served by social services that fill the void even where individuals make poor choices by design or by default.
The unspoken truth to the Blitzer hypothetical was that as many as half of the population has no health insurance. This includes many who would like to have it but either can not qualify because of preexisting exclusions or who can not pay the premium.
It's not hard to imagine that many of those attending would have cheered
"let him die" even if he had been trying to get insurance.
We're in an era where the people who grabbed lifeboats from the Titanic feel very superior to those who who were not so agile or lucky.
Many of those in the lifeboats, of course, see a populace that is infantilized, expecting some drug to cure them or some program to address their needs. And many of those with chronic needs are seen as having contributed little to the public weal or as having weak ties to the labor market.
But here in the blog let's not get mired in the ongoing national debate about the role of government and the individual. I'm fond of musing about the interplay between larger political and societal trends and workers' comp, but lets' not get too far afield today.
Back to our workers' comp world.
In workers' comp benefits are guaranteed. An inept employee who heads right into a buzz saw will receive guaranteed benefits, including medical treatment, temporary disability monies and a financial settlement depending on the degree of the injury.
In our world employee fault is irrelevant. Co-factors such as smoking, dietary habits, obesity, and other co-existing health conditions may impact the worker's recovery and impact the eventual extent of disability.
There's increasing awareness that many of these problems can increase the cost of claims, affecting the cost of claims.
But there's little attention paid in workers' comp to the concept of personal responsibility.
If you're an attorney, getting a weight loss program for a client authorized is often a major fight. If a client is motivated and wants to go to a gym to get in shape, that's often seen as a personal choice rather than a medical necessity.
So the lines are blurred in workers' comp. What is personal responsibility?
And even if some of these things are personal responsibility, is it in the carriers' financial interest to help?
If you're interested in delving more into different viewpoints on the Ron Paul response to Blitzer, here are 2 different viewpoints:
First, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/16/opini ... o-die.html
Second, a response from a blog sympathetic to Ron Paul:
http://www.thelibertyvoice.com/media-as ... -target-rp
Thursday, September 15, 2011, 09:52 PM - Political developmentsGovernor Jerry Brown was quoted this week as saying "I'm going to veto a lot of bills over the next 30 days,"
"So I have to say to some, fasten your seat belt cause this is going to be a rough ride. They've given me 600 bills and there's not 600 problems that we need those solutions for," Brown said.
Will that include workers' comp bills?
Many of the bills headed to Brown's desk involve modest changes that would round off some of the sharp edges of the Schwarzenegger reform years. Brown may be loathe to cross labor and injured worker advocates who worked on the bills. And many of the bills appear to be good from a policy standpoint.
Further, if Brown does veto some or all of the bills, it's unlikely that doing so will give him any significant bargaining chips with a Republican legislative minority that has been almost totally uncooperative with his efforts on the states fiscal crisis to date.
On the other hand, Brown is nothing if not unpredictable. He is likely concerned about any possibility that workers' comp costs will spiral at a time when the economy is weak. He may be concerned about perceptions
about the comp system generally. Workers' comp was never a happy issue for Brown.
Workers' comp never surfaced as a significant issue in the race against Meg Whitman. Aside from some vague comments at occasional fundraisers, I'm not aware of any promises Brown made to any stakeholder groups on workers' comp.
That's what may make his action on the various bills interesting. If there are vetoes it may give us a sense of what Brown is prepared to do with comp overall...whether he is engaged or disengaged on the issues....whether he would encourage stakeholders to reach a more grand compromise on issues involving benefits and cost containment, etc.
I could be way off the mark, but I suspect we'll see a mixed result. Some signings and some vetoes. That's my sense of it.
Here is a link to a post by Wyatt Buchanan in the San Francisco Chronicle, discussing Brown's veto pen:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/nov ... y_id=97554
Here is a link to a post from last week discussing some of the bills:
http://www.workerscompzone.com/index.ph ... 909-211653
Wednesday, September 14, 2011, 07:59 AM - Political developmentsMost folks are holding on to their wallet, hoping that the housing market does not crater further, taking more homes underwater.
And it's not comforting to see the bond market start to take down the Spanish and Italian economy along with French banks.
It's the world we live in.
Ah, to remember back to the time there was a just war. The War On Poverty.
Some of you may recall Michael Harrington's book, The Other America, written in 1962:
http://www3.niu.edu/~td0raf1/1960s/Othe ... xcerpt.htm
From statistics, it looks like we're devolving back to a land of more poverty.
It's sad, it's shameful, but it could get a lot worse than it is now.
Sabrina Tavernise reports in yesterday's New York Times that:
"Another 2.6 million people slipped into poverty in the United States last year, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, and the number of Americans living below the official poverty line, 46.2 million people, was the highest number in the 52 years the bureau has been publishing figures on it."
Here is a link to the poverty statistics on the Census Bureau website:
Most everyone reading this blog-whether you are a workers' comp claimant or a workers' comp professional-is involved in a social safety net program, our workers' comp program. It's good to put our program in perspective as we see how the overall social safety net countrywide is doing.
Here is a link to the New York Times piece by Ms. Tavernise:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/us/14 ... amp;st=cse