Columnist: State's Once-a-Decade Comp Fight Expected to Heat Up
Tuesday, April 6, 2021 | 3
California’s workers’ comp players are due for their once-a-decade fight to change the system in their respective favor, columnist Dan Walters said in his latest CalMatters column, published Monday.
“Over the last half-century, a predictable cycle has emerged,” Walters wrote. “Once a decade — or once a governorship — the five contending factions go to war, three of the five cut a deal to grab bigger slices of the financial pie, and push it through the Legislature. It takes a few years for the changes to impact the system and a few more for a new tripartite alliance to form for another battle.”
Walters said the “war” last happened during Gov. Jerry Brown’s most recent term when labor advocates and employers made a deal “with the implicit blessing of work comp insurers.”
The deal was to tamp down medical costs in hopes of increasing benefits for injured workers while lowering premiums, Walters wrote.
Two groups — lawyers and medical providers — were left out of the deal, but they may be able to tip the scales this time around thanks to at least two comp bills that have been introduced, Walters wrote.
Assembly Bill 1465, by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego and Majority Leader Eloise Reyes, D-San Bernardino, would require the Division of Workers’ Compensation’s administrative director to create a statewide organization called the California Medical Provider Network.
Another bill, Assembly Bill 404, by Assemblymember Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, would require the DWC to update the Medical-Legal Fee Schedule at least yearly to increase cost-of-living adjustments in line with changes in the most recent federal Medicare Economic Index.
“Medical care providers, who were on the short end of the last big work comp deal, want legislation to provide automatic inflation increases in their fees,” he wrote. “Another bill would create a state-operated network of medical care providers for work comp treatment that would bypass employers’ provider networks.”
If labor groups, medical providers and legal reps are able to form an alliance, another major system overhaul is likely, Walters wrote.