Lobbyists at California Conference Call D.C. Vs. Sacramento Tension ‘Palpable’

By | July 24, 2017

The tension between Washington, D.C., and Sacramento seems to have created extra work for some lobbyists.

“It’s absolutely palpable,” Paul Yoder, managing director for the California Coalition on Workers’ Compensation, said commenting on the tension.

He was speaking with Jason Schmelzer, CCWC’s legislative advocate, about legislation in the state and its potential impacts on workers’ comp.

The pair, which estimated the tension between the nation’s and the state’s capitols has added 25 percent or more to the workloads of lobbyists like themselves, were speaking at the annual CCWC conference in Anaheim, Calif., at Disney’s Grand California Hotel Spa.

We are far and few in between in the United States.

The 15th annual conference drew more than 700 participants this year, according to organizers. The three-day conference ran from July 12-14. Topics this year included case law updates, actuarial reports, claims discussions, fraud issues and advances in telemedicine.

Yoder and Schmelzer noted that while the nation was electing a conservative president who has vowed to cut taxes last November, the state was busy passing laws that increased taxes or were far left politically from the rest of the nation.

California voters overwhelmingly supported initiatives like Proposition 56 (cigarette tax), Proposition 58 (bilingual education), Proposition 63 (an ammunition sales prohibition) and Proposition 64 (marijuana legalization).

The election made the state an outlier, if it already wasn’t considered one, Yoder said.

“We are far and few in between in the United States,” Yoder said.

Schmelzer added: “We’ve always been something special, but this year we were extra different.”

State legislators have also vowed to battle President Trump’s initiatives on immigration, healthcare and withdrawing the nation from the Paris climate accord.

Gov. Jerry Brown is loudly opposing Trump’s stance on climate change and plans to bring heads of state from other nations to involve California in international efforts to battle global warming.

“He wants to have another Paris,” Yoder said.

After painting a picture of the state’s political landscape, the pair discussed how these things could impact workers’ comp.

They also discussed workers’ comp legislation introduced this year that the CCWC took a stance on. Some of the bills failed, others will be taken up in the next legislative session.

Assembly Bill 44 was introduced in the wake of the terrorist attack on San Bernardino workers in 2015. The California Department of Industrial Relations launched an investigation into delays in treatment for those injured in the attack.

The bill would have established a disputable presumption that physician-requested treatment is appropriate, which Schmelzer said would have disrupted the established utilization review and independent medical review process and eliminated the 104-week cap on total disability.

“We opposed this bill aggressively,” Schmelzer said.

Assembly Bill 570 was aimed addressing gender-biased inequities in the workers’ comp system. It would prohibit apportionment in the case of a physical injury from being based on pregnancy, childbirth or other medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.

The biggest issue, Schmelzer said, was that making an exception on one case could set a dangerous precedent.

“Before you know it, you no longer have a workers’ compensation system, you have a compensation system,” Schmelzer said.

Assembly Bill 1295 would require claims administrators to calculate the number of days between utilization review (UR) denial and overturn by independent medical review (IMR) for purposes of removing that period of time from the total disability cap.

Schmelzer said that the data already shows that IMR proves the UR system is working.

“UR denials are upheld by IMR somewhere around 90 percent of the time,” Schmelzer said. The bill didn’t make it out of the Assembly Insurance Committee.

Senate Bill 562, sponsored by the California Nurses Association, would create universal healthcare. The bill didn’t make it out of the Legislature but it did become a two-year bill. While some may believe it’s dead, it actually advanced in some respects and is poised to be a hot topic next year, Yoder said.

“It’s not dead,” he added.

Should the bill ever get passed, it creates a number of questions for how it impacts the workers’ comp system, Schmelzer said.

“How does that blend with a workers’ comp system that is totally independent of the health market?” he said. “This is going to be a tough one. This is going to be a really, really tough one for the state to grapple with.”

From This Issue

Insurance Journal West July 24, 2017
July 24, 2017
Insurance Journal West Magazine

Excess, Surplus & Specialty Markets Directory, Volume II

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