Flurry of Calif. Workers’ Comp Bills to be Heard April 30

April 17, 2003

Wednesday, April 30, 2003 is shaping up to be a milestone for the California workers’ compensation system. On that day, the California Senate Insurance Committee is expected to hear 60 percent of the Assembly workers’ comp bills. Nearly 20 bills are scheduled for hearing.

The Association of California Insurance Companies (ACIC) is endorsing eight of the proposed workers’ comp legislation: AB 431, AB 595, AB 596, AB 597, AB 1480, AB 1481, AB 1482, and AB 1483. ACIC also expects AB 1215 to be a positive bill for consumers and businesses.

AB 431 would reportedly make an inroad into the traditional workers’ comp “liberal construction” doctrine. Current law provides liberal construction of work comp law to extend benefits to persons injured at work. This bill would provide work comp law be liberally construed only after employment injury is determined to have occurred, and the injury is both “specific” and results in serious physical or bodily harm. An employee would be required to demonstrate that the injury was substantially caused by actual activities of employment in order to be

AB 596, AB 596 and AB 597 are thought to put some teeth into the medical fee schedules. AB 595 would mandate a durable medical equipment fee schedule; AB 596 would apply the pharmaceutical fee schedule to all medicine whether prescribed by pharmacists, physicians or others; AB 597 would require the state workers’ comp division’s administrative director to adopt an outpatient surgery facility fee schedule by July 1, 2004.

A four-bill package would reportedly make significant changes in work comp medical procedures and penalties for delayed payments-including more timely disability payments and increased penalties for unreasonably delayed or refused compensation (AB 1480); reform permanent disability ratings and apportionment, and would make a quantum leap in mandating medical objectivity and reliance on prescribed medical guidelines (AB 1481); require all medical services- including outpatient surgery facilities and emergency room services- to be included in the official fee schedule (AB 1482); increase a
higher level of medical expertise by mandating every physician who treats and evaluates injured workers to be certified by the Industrial Medical Council as a Qualified Workers’ Compensation Physician (AB 1483).

Also, AB 1215 would reportedly enhance workers’ comp insurers access to wage and withholding reports to better detect employers’ work comp fraud.

Other bills that are scheduled to be heard include: AB 606, AB 1262, AB 1324, AB 1327, AB 1357, AB 1434, AB 1579, AB 1580, and AB 1581.

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