Poll: Little Faith for Lasting Workers’ Comp Reforms in Calif.

By | August 22, 2012

People overwhelmingly believe workers’ compensation premiums will rise if no reforms come out of a bill currently in the works in state Legislature to increase benefits for injured workers and reduce waste in the system to the tune of more than $1 billion.

That’s according to an ongoing poll on Insurancejournal.com, which is in its infancy, so figures are likely to change as people continue to take it. Click here to take survey

It seeks people’s feelings about efforts that stem from months of secretive meetings between labor and a small group of large, self-insured employers that yielded a nearly 300-page proposal. That proposal could end up in a bill and get taken up during the last two weeks of session, however the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association has vowed the fight the proposal. Little more has been said in the past week about the possible reform package, which has the backing of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

More than 90 percent of polltakers overwhelmingly say workers’ comp premiums will rise if no reforms are made. Only 7 percent say they will stay the same, and just over 2 percent say they would fall.

And if reforms are made? Nearly as many say premiums will rise as those who say they will stay the same, while 27 percent of respondents believe they will fall.

Just over half of those who took the poll so far say that government is not capable of creating meaningful, lasting workers’ comp reform, compared with 46 percent who say that government is capable of such reform.

Most say reforms ushered in by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003 and 2004 worked, but they blamed rising medical costs for the current situation of the state’s workers’ comp system, while one fourth of polltakers said those reforms did not work and what’s happening now is proof of their failure.

A report issued Tuesday by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute bears out the reasons for such negativity. The report, compiled from data issued by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau, shows workers’ comp insurers’ loss and expense payments rose to nearly $12.5 billion in 2011, an increase of over $1 billion from 2010.

Those who took the poll also don’t have a great deal of faith in Brown’s administration to oversee workers’ comp reforms, with more than 28 percent saying Brown will fare worse in terms of ushering in reforms. Only 10 percent say he will do better, while nearly 18 percent say Brown will do “just as well,” and 43.6 percent contend he’ll “do just as poorly.”

According to the poll lawyers are the biggest problem with the workers’ compensation system in California. Nearly six in 10 respondents (58.3 percent) answered that “lawyers” were the No. 1 problem with the system. A fourth of respondents chose “fraud” as the biggest problem.

However there’s some reason for optimism that efforts to reform workers’ comp are at least taking place in the right place. Nearly seven in 10 (69.8 percent) say they believe legislation is the best next step for reform.

That’s guarded optimism is from polltakers. More than 45 percent say regulation is the next best step to achieve workers’ comp reform, but just over 40 percent chose as the best next step to “Scrap the efforts and start over.”

Also nearly split are people’s opinions as to what should be the most worthwhile reform considered in a bill: 28 percent say fraud fighting measures should be considered versus 25 percent who say looking at ways to lower medical costs would be the most worthwhile reform considered.

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