Monday, May 03, 2004

Workers' Compensation Committee Negotiates a Deal

April 23, 2004

THE [CALIFORNIA] LEGISLATURE HAS OVERWHELMINGLY passed compromise legislation to reform our broken workers' compensation system. The Federation took a NEUTRAL position on this legislation. The bill, signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, was indeed a compromise that included both benefits and take-aways for injured workers. But its passage does keep a draconian, multi-million dollar funded anti-worker initiative off the November ballot.

Organized Labor worked hard to maintain a worker's right to choose his or her own doctor. Union members will be able to name their current doctor as their treating doctor should they suffer an injury on the job. Our members must pre-designate their doctors immediately by completing a form and returning it to their employers. A sample pre-designation form and other materials on workers' comp can be found at here and here.

Insurance companies are the big winners in this deal. Not only did companies and their brokers escape any form of regulation, but they also exacted specific benefits in this legislation.

Last year, Labor worked to contain medical costs. Those reforms produced great savings to the system. But the savings weren't passed on to the employers by insurance companies. The legislature and the Governor should have learned their lesson. Without insurance re-regulation, savings to employers from this year's bill are just as unlikely to materialize as last year. We must sustain our efforts to re-regulate workers' compensation insurance companies or this crisis will never be solved.