Unions Circulating Draft of Bill To Boost Workers' Compensation Benefits

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Lobbyists for labor unions are circulating a summary of proposed legislation to increase workers' compensation benefits, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports (Walters, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 8/14).

On Wednesday, the Senate Industrial Relations Committee is scheduled to hold an informational hearing on language of the proposed bill (Johnson, Sacramento Business Journal, 8/14).

Background

Although there is less than a month left in the legislative session, California labor unions have pushed for the introduction of a bill that would increase workers' compensation payments to permanently injured workers and limit the fees that can be charged in processing claims.

Angie Wei -- a lobbyist with the California Labor Federation -- said that her group has been in talks with the chairs of the Senate Labor and Assembly Insurance committees about the issue and that unions and employers have been negotiating over workers' compensation for months (California Healthline, 8/9).

Details of Summary

According to a 45-point summary of proposed language, the bill would increase workers' compensation benefits by a total of about $700 million annually for individuals with permanent injuries ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 8/14).

The legislation also would reduce costs in the workers' compensation system by a projected $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion (Sacramento Business Journal, 8/14).

The bill would cut costs by:

  • Eliminating benefits for certain health conditions; and
  • Scaling back considerations of future earning capacity while setting benefits.

The provisions detailed in the summary could be incorporated into a separate workers' compensation bill (SB 863) by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), according to "Capitol Alert."

Reaction to Summary

The summary is drawing opposition from lawyers who specialize in workers' compensation cases. They argue that the bill is worse than workers' compensation reforms implemented by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), which the legislation seeks to undo.

According to "Capitol Alert," it is unknown how health care providers and health insurers would react to the bill ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 8/14).

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