A new workers' compensation reform bill (SB 863) has put labor unions and employers at odds with attorneys who represent injured workers, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Supporters and opponents of the bill spoke at a hearing of the state Assembly Insurance Committee on Tuesday (Rosenhall, Sacramento Bee, 8/29).
Details of Bill
The legislation -- by Sens. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Jose Solorio (D-Anaheim) -- was introduced on Monday (California Healthline, 8/28).
The bill would change the formula used to calculate benefits for injured workers, increasing their compensation by an average of 29%.
It also would eliminate benefits for certain health conditions that often are subject to lawsuits, such as psychiatric problems, sexual dysfunction and sleep loss. According to the Bee, such a change would mean less business for attorneys.
The State Compensation Insurance Fund said employers likely would pay less for workers' compensation insurance under the measure.
According to de León, any savings generated by the bill would help raise benefits for permanently disabled workers.
Support for Bill
At the hearing on Tuesday, Angie Wei, a lobbyist for the Labor Federation, said, "For eight years the labor movement has been before this Legislature, before this committee, raging about delays and denials of medical treatment, about injured workers living with benefits that were deeply slashed." She added, "Finally, we have a plan to do something about it."
Sean McNally, vice president of Grimmway Farms, said that labor and management are "the two stakeholders in the [workers' compensation] system who don't profit from the system."
He said, "The two that do not profit from it are the two out championing this reform. The folks who seem to be fighting us the hardest are the stakeholders in the system who profit from it."
Criticism of Bill
Brad Chalk, president of the California Applicants' Attorneys Association, said, "Not everybody gets an increase" under the measure. He said, "Who doesn't get an increase? The injured worker that can't go back to their job."
Attorneys also argued that the bill would result in new state bureaucracies to create a medical review board and fewer state jobs because the panel could include out-of-state physicians (Sacramento Bee, 8/29).