Focusing the spotlight on solutions to California’s economic problems, State Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi urged Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger to convene a special session of the legislature on workers’ compensation when he takes office in November.
Garamendi met with Schwarzenegger Thursday afternoon at the Department of Insurance, where the two discussed various issues, chief among them workers’ compensation. The Commissioner also proposed holding a Summit on Workers’ Compensation to seek more expert input on the serious problems plaguing the $29 billion system.
Garamendi has worked since taking office in January to reform the system. His efforts helped inspire and push through legislation that will save an estimated $4 billion to $6 billion annually.
“Our economy cannot recover unless more jobs are created to stimulate the state’s revenue stream,” Garamendi said. “Businesses cannot create jobs when they are burdened with the enormous weight of this dysfunctional system. The Governor-elect and I are in very close agreement on that, and we also have similar ideas on how to deal with the problems of workers’ compensation.”
Garamendi recently launched the second stage of his workers’ compensation reform effort. During this phase he will direct the Department to tackle the highly subjective and unfair permanent disability rating system; reinvigorate efforts to combat fraud; work to institute 24-hour care as a health care substitute for multiple coverages already provided by employers; and work to reform the State Compensation Insurance Fund, which has experienced overwhelming growth in recent years due to the collapse of more than two-dozen workers’ compensation carriers.
During this first meeting between the two state leaders, Garamendi briefed Schwarzenegger on the role of the Department as a consumer protection agency and regulator of the state’s $87 billion insurance industry. The two also discussed their families. Garamendi’s wife, Patricia, served five years in Washington DC as Assistant Deputy Director of the Peace Corps. She worked there with Sargent Shriver, the father of Schwarzenegger’s wife, Maria Shriver.
“We have something in common, and we share a common interest, which is rekindling this state’s economic fire,” said Garamendi. “Jobs are the key to a turnaround for California. I look forward to leading the drive for jobs with Governor-elect Schwarzenegger.”