The War Over Worker's Compensation

Law Talk

Sam K. Abdulaziz
Attorney at Law

An initiative proposed by William Morris, a Turlock attorney who represents injured workers, could cost private sector and public employers in this state billions of dollars each year in accordance with the findings of the California Legislative Analysts. In a letter to Attorney General Jerry Brown, it is stated that the Legislative Analyst's Office, an impartial agency, has estimated the cost of the proposed legislation to be in the millions of dollars annually for private and public employers and hundreds of millions of dollars for state and local tax payers. The proposal is called the Fair Medical Treatment for Workers Act and is currently being reviewed by the Attorney General.

However, the proponent of this legislation states that the analysis overlooked some things. The proponent argues that system costs decreased for many reasons and a reduction in the cost of the system does not translate to lower medical costs, he said in a news release. He is quoted to have said, "What the analyst has failed to address is the ever increasing litigation costs, which will be saved and the savings of the bureaucratic costs that are increasing by ever more burdensome governmental oversight. There is also the problem that medical treatment not adequately delivered merely transfers the costs to the public for increased need for welfare and indigent support systems."

The proponent's proposed measure, which he expects to be able to circulate soon, will generate savings in areas the report did not consider. It will also stress the need for quick medical treatment, increase the employee's ability to choose their own doctors and reduces the limits placed on doctors. He hopes to place this initiative on the ballot next year.

The measures, itself, in accordance with the Legislative Analyst's Office would:

(1) Reverse laws that limit injured worker's ability to chose the medical provider who will treat their workplace injury; (2) End current requirements for the insurer or employer to okay the treating doctor's treatment recommendations; and (3) Provide that medical bills from a doctor are adequate and sufficient if consistent with a schedule of reasonable medical charges established by the State Department of Industrial Relations.

The measure would also require the Department to review the medical charge schedule each year and allow for public comment.

Our fear is that since the legislature does not live in the real world, it may not be able to make any reasonable decision whatsoever. Interpretations by the courts would affect employers' workers' compensation costs.