Pending Bills Undermine Calif. Workers Comp Reforms, Insurers Say

June 28, 2006

Three measures awaiting approval by a key state Senate committee would undermine recent reforms that have improved California’s workers compensation system, according to Sam Sorich, president of the Association of California Insurance Companies (ACIC).

Sorich said the pending bills, scheduled to be heard by the Labor and Industrial Relations Committee today, would weaken the reforms’ medical provider networks (MPNs) and treatment guidelines.

“The reform laws are improving care to injured workers, holding down costs and allowing the injured to get back to work sooner. If these pending bills were allowed to become law, the result would be poorer care, higher costs and workers out of work longer,” said Sorich.

The three pending measures are AB 1612 by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, AB 2068 by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, and AB 3026 by Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View.

AB 1612 would allow the unilateral cancellation or voiding of medical provider network contracts by physicians. MPNs provide ready access to care for injured workers.

“AB 1612 is a dangerous approach since no one knows how many contracts will be voided. That could jeopardize injured workers’ access to good medical care.” said Sorich.

Another bill, AB 2068, would remove limitations placed on predesignating a personal physician, thereby undoing an important element in the 2004 reform law, according to the ACIC president.

The provisions in AB 3026 could be interpreted to exclude additional chiropractic, occupational therapy and physical therapy visits from treatment guidelines. “This measure could expose injured workers to treatments that may have no proven relationship to improving their conditions,” said Sorich.

Reflecting on the three pending bills, Sorich added: “The reforms contained in existing law have lead to dramatic decreases in workers compensation costs and improved medical care. ACIC believes that now is not the time to undermine these reforms.”

Source: ACIC

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